This overview summarizes the experimental and epidemiological evidence linking alcohol consumption and the immune system. It focuses on findings supporting the notion that moderate alcohol consumption exerts anti-inflammatory effects which may explain, at least in part, the reduced risk of coronary heart disease morbidity and mortality in these subjects. Alcohol consumption has been shown consistently to be associated with all-cause mortality in a J- or U-shaped manner. This is due primarily to reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality among moderate consumers of alcohol compared to abstainers and heavy drinkers. Several mechanisms have been suggested by which moderate alcohol consumption could lower risk of CHD. However, changes in lipids, such as increased HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 or a favourable haemostatic profile, can only partly explain the beneficial effects. Recently, anti-inflammatory effects of moderate intake of alcohol have been considered as an additional possible explanation, as inflammation has a fundamental role in the initiation, progression and the thrombotic complications of atherosclerosis.