A recent paper by Professor Morten Grønbæk of the Centre for Alcohol Research, National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark reviews, the negative and the positive effects of alcohol on health.
It is first of all established facts that a high alcohol intake implies an increased risk of a large number of health outcomes, such as dementia, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cirrhosis, upper digestive tract cancer and alcohol dependency. Second, it is justified that alcohol has beneficial effects for some individuals, especially with regard to prevention of thrombosis of the heart. The public health relevance of these results is considered. The sensible drinking limits, used in both the UK and Denmark, of a maximum of 21 drinks per week for men and 14 drinks per week for women seem valid. A broader public health message of the beneficial effects of alcohol does not seem to be of interest in Western societies, where only a very small fraction of the population are non drinkers and may have very good reasons therefore.
Professor R Curtis Ellison comments: This is a very complete summary of the positive and negative health effects of alcohol from a leading scientist in the field. It summarizes the epidemiologic evidence for adverse and protective aspects of alcohol consumption as well as many of the proposed biological mechanisms for such effects. It describes potential confounders of the demonstrated effects of alcohol and concludes with a discussion of how current data on alcohol intake and health can be used in making reasonable recommendations to the public. It includes many of the key references on the topic.
Source: Gronbaek M. The positive and negative health effects of alcohol - and the public health implications. J Internal Med 2009;265:407-420.