In surveys of 4860 middle-aged men in Caerphilly (South Wales) and Speedwell (Bristol) alcohol consumption has been related to high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and its major subfractions, HDL2 and HDL3, measured in a single fasting blood sample. The results confirm that high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration increases as the amount of alcohol regularly consumed increases. The relationship appears to be linear and is independent of age, smoking habit, body mass index, low density lipoprotein cholesterol and plasma total triglyceride. This rise in HDL cholesterol is not mediated through either HDL2 cholesterol or HDL3 cholesterol alone. Both subclasses increase significantly and by similar amounts with increasing alcohol intake.