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Volume 10 Supplement 2

INEBRIA 12th Congress,

  • Oral presentation
  • Open Access

Health benefits from moderate drinking: a critical review

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  • 2,
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  • 5 and
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Addiction Science & Clinical Practice201510 (Suppl 2) :O2

  • Published:


  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Mendelian Randomisation
  • Moderate Drinking
  • Preventable Death
  • Current Drinker

Although alcohol consumption is a leading cause of preventable death and social problems worldwide, many studies have found an association between low-dose consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular (CVD) disease. Despite important limitations in the underlying research, this idea has been promoted extensively, used to argue against the adoption of effective alcohol policies and led some doctors to advise patients to drink for better health.

There are a number of grounds for scepticism about these claims. There have been no randomised studies of low-dose alcohol consumption with disease or death outcomes to confirm findings from non-randomised studies. There are many methodological problems with observational studies, most importantly confounding and misclassification. In contrast to observational studies, a recent large Mendelian randomisation study found that having a genetic disposition that causes less drinking was associated with a significantly reduced risk of coronary disease, even among those who consume modest amounts of alcohol. Recent research has also challenged some of the purported mechanisms for the protective effect of moderate drinking, eg the effect on and impact of blood lipids.

This paper will provide methodological critique of the scientific basis for the claim that low-dose alcohol confers health benefits. It is concluded that the protective effects of moderate drinking may be spurious. Governments should strengthen effective alcohol control policies to reduce alcohol-related deaths, social problems and economic costs. Physician advice to patients should focus on reducing consumption among current drinkers, and should discourage drinking initiation or increased consumption on the basis of health-related considerations.

Authors’ Affiliations

Karolinska Institutet - Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden
Curtin University - National Drug Research Institute, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Sahlgrenska Academy and University Hospital, The Queen Silvia Children's Hospital - Peadiatric Clinical Physiology, Goteborg, Sweden
Prevention Research Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 180 Grand Ave., Suite 1200, Oakland, CA 94612, USA
Boston Medical Center - Section on General Internal Medicine;, Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, USA
Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria, BC, Canada


© Andreasson et al. 2015

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.