Disease Risk and Beneficial Effects

M Gronbffik, National Institute of Public Health, Copenhagen, Denmark

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Alcohol has for hundreds of years been part of the diet for many people. When enjoyed in small amounts and together with meals, alcohol may have positive effects on health, especially on the prevention of coronary heart disease. In larger amounts, and especially drunk in binges, alcohol is a toxic and dependence-inducing substance, with many short- and long-term detrimental effects. The latter, combined with the high alcohol intake in subsets of the population, implies that alcohol has a major impact on public health in most Western countries. A higher alcohol intake results in higher rates of certain cancer, cirrhosis, suicide, traffic accidents, abuse, and a number of socioeconomic conditions.

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