In view of the developments in health care relating to the increased prevalence and incidence of chronic diseases and the continuing increase in health-care expenditure, more attention should be paid to health maintenance and disease prevention. Any strategy that can influence health maintenance is of interest, especially lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise or stress control. Alcohol has an important place in the daily life of many healthy as well as sick individuals. Alcohol has three major characteristics; it is a nutrient (energy source), a psycho-active drug and a toxin. Each consumer has the choice of which of the characteristics of alcohol he/she wants to utilise. Thus, alcohol represents one of the most important self-implemented disease modifiers in our modern society. The major determinants of the health effects of alcohol are the absolute amount consumed, the consumption frequency, associated lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking, nutrient intake, substrate composition, physical activity pattern) and last, but not least, the genetic background. There are few known disease conditions that have not already been associated positively or negatively with alcohol consumption. The list of diseases includes atherosclerosis, dementia, diabetes, obesity and conditions relating to Zn metabolism. Obesity represents the most important disease modifier in the world and the prevalence rates are increasing rapidly. Evidence suggests that alcohol represents a risk factor for overweight and obesity as a result of specific effects on energy metabolism and substrate metabolism. The potential role of alcohol as an important modulator for the postprandial lipidaemia and its role in the pathogenesis of modern diseases will be discussed.