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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 Jul;29(7):1334-40.

Health risks of chronic moderate and heavy alcohol consumption: how much is too much?

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Department of Radiology, University of California, San Francisco, 94121, USA.


This article presents the proceedings of a symposium held at the meeting of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ISBRA) in Mannheim, Germany, in October 2004. Most of what we know about the deleterious effects of alcohol in vivo has been gleaned from studies in sober alcoholics recruited from substance abuse treatment programs. Little is known about effects of chronic drinking in the moderate or heavy range encountered in a much larger fraction of modern society. Extrapolation of information on the adverse effects of chronic drinking on organ function from clinical samples to social drinkers in the general population has to be met with great skepticism, as it may lead to wrong conclusions about the chronic effects of alcohol in social drinkers. Several recent studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption has certain beneficial health effects, whereas heavy social alcohol consumption has recently been associated with organ abnormalities and cognitive deficits. These social drinking effects have attracted great public interest; reports of benefits of moderate drinking have also inspired inappropriate publications by the media, including misleading advertisements by the alcohol producing and distributing industry. Although adverse effects of moderate to heavy drinking on heart, liver, and cancer development have attracted attention by clinicians and researchers for some time, its compromising effects on brain and cognition have only recently been studied. This symposium brought together researchers from different disciplines, who reviewed and presented new data on consequences of social drinking in the areas of clinical neuropsychology and behavior (Drs. Nixon and Meyerhoff), neurophysiology (Dr. Nixon, Ms. De Bruin), neuroimaging (Ms. de Bruin, Dr. Meyerhoff), hepatic disease (Dr. Bode), and cancer (Dr. Seitz). The symposium aimed to clarify both the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption and risks of moderate and heavy drinking on proper organ function and to provide insights and new data to practicing physicians and public health authorities for education on problem drinking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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