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Moderate drinking controversy

The controversy over moderate drinking is an ongoing debate about the claimed benefit or harm to human health from moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. Moderate consumption typically means the consumption of no more than one drink of an alcoholic beverage a day. There is wide consensus that over-drinking is harmful: alcohol damages human cells and organss such as the brain, liver and kidneys, and it weakens the immune system. On the other hand, there is at least a mild benefit from drinking that may help prevent coronary heart disease. Critics of moderate drinking claim that any benefits are far outweighed by the harms and that these benefits can be had by less risky means. Supporters maintain that moderate drinkers enjoy better health than non-drinkers.

Research on the effects of moderate drinking is in its early stages. No long term studies have been done and control groups would be difficult to establish because of the many variables. Given the current state of the research, an editorial concludes in the December 1997 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine that the recommendation to be a moderate drinker is "not only meaningless but also irresponsible" given that the many obvious health hazards of alcohol outweigh "the benefits of alcohol [which] are small and ill-understood" particularly when so many other cardiovascular treatments are available.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Servicesí National Toxicology Program listed alcohol as a known carcinogen in 2000. The NTP profile report on alcohol states that incidences of cancer rise dramatically when alcohol is used in conjunction with tobacco, another known carcinogen.

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