Alcohol and Mortality Amount of Alcohol

Several large prospective population studies from many countries have described the impact of alcohol intake on mortality as J-shaped, indicating both the beneficial effect of a light to moderate alcohol intake and a detrimental effect of a high alcohol intake (Figure 1).

Some have explained the J shape as an artefact due to misclassification or confounding. Prevailing beliefs among these researchers is that abstainers comprise a mix of former heavy drinkers, underreporting drinkers, ill people who have stopped drinking, and people with an especially unhealthy lifestyle apart from abstaining. However, most researchers attribute the 'J' to a combination of beneficial and harmful effects of ethanol. This is based on findings from population studies of alcohol-related morbidity and cause-specific mortality that show a decreased relative risk of coronary heart disease, and an increased risk of certain cancers and cirrhosis, with increased alcohol intake. Further evidence derives from studies in which people who were ill at baseline were excluded, and these confirmed the previously mentioned findings.

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