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Clinical Crossroads
Clinician's Corner
May 26, 2010

A 42-Year-Old Man Considering Whether to Drink Alcohol for His Health

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Dr Mukamal is Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Associate Physician, Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.

JAMA. 2010;303(20):2065-2073. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.550
Abstract

Alcohol consumption is widespread and, in excess, a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. At the same time, a consistent body of observational evidence has found that individuals who consume alcohol within recommended limits have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than do abstainers. These observations have led many to consider small amounts of alcohol as a cardioprotective strategy. Mr Q, a 42-year-old man who has consistently sought ways to preserve his health, is at a crossroads in his discussions with his physicians about the health effects of his regular, limited alcohol intake. The discussion reviews the epidemiology of drinking in the United States, the established effects of moderate alcohol intake on key pathophysiological biomarkers and pathways, the strengths and limitations of observational evidence linking alcohol intake to lower risk of coronary heart disease, other chronic diseases linked to moderate alcohol intake, and a framework in which Mr Q can discuss the potential risks and benefits of alcohol consumption with his physicians.

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