How Much Alcohol is Too Much


We’ve all been taught the word “moderation” when it comes to drinking alcohol, but what exactly does that mean to your diet?

Can you still enjoy a few drinks per week and maintain a healthy body?

Let’s be honest; there have been multiple studies done about booze with all kinds of conclusions, but Harvard Medical School reports that a personalized approach is always best. The institution found that one’s current health status and the number of beverages they consume play a key role in how “good” the benefits of alcohol can be.

When talking about alcoholic beverages, the amount matters. In other words, studies conducted use these numbers for reference here in the United States:

A standard alcoholic drink would include 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of table wine, 3.5 ounces of fortified wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

In other countries around the globe, however, alcohol is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. In the United Kingdom, five pints of beer per week is their guideline for moderation. That number used to be higher, but the U.K. lowered its alcohol drinking recommendations in 2016. In addition, European countries use grams when talking about amounts as opposed to ounces in the U.S.

A new study published in The Lancet in April of this year has revealed the magic number of alcoholic drinks that a person can safely consume. Their research featured multi-national data from 600,000 people, and the results spell it out simply and bluntly:

“People who consume more than about six drinks per week have a greater risk of premature death.”

The Lancet found that drinking beyond the six beverages can lead to a higher risk of health issues that can include a stroke, heart disease, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm. Diabetes, weight gain and cognitive impairment can also develop, and in women, studies have shown that even a small glass of wine a day can increase their risk of developing breast cancer.

The U.S. government’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a part of the National Institutes of Health, have their own guidelines of what is too much booze or at-risk drinking for healthy adults. Surprisingly, these numbers are more lenient:

For men, it’s having more than 4 drinks on any day or 14 per week.

For women, it’s drinking more than 3 alcoholic beverages on any day or 7 per week.

Females have less body water than males and retain a higher blood-alcohol concentration than men from a single drink. Men usually outweigh women also, so that is why the guidelines are a bit stricter for females.

Figuring out the alcohol content of a beverage can also be a tricky component to the recommended guidelines when trying to maintain a 6-drinks per week rule. For example, a rich port wine can often contain up to a 20-percent alcohol content compared to a Pinot Grigio at 10-percent, a Belgian beer at 8-percent and a lager at 4-percent.

Binge drinking is another aspect that can be dangerous for your health even if you do it only on the weekends. For instance, binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks within 2 hours for women and 5 or more drinks within 2 hours for men.

Eating food before and during the drinking of alcohol also affects its absorption into the bloodstream. Consuming high protein foods will slow down the absorption. Drinking on an empty stomach irritates the digestive system and increases the absorption rate.

The NIAAA updates its alcohol drinking guidelines every five years, and the next recommendations are due in 2020. It will be interesting to see where the U.S. public health experts come down on the standard drink definition.

Moderation can be such a complex term when it comes to alcohol.

It’s important to understand that addiction to alcohol is real, and sometimes it may necessitate treatment. But with the right combination of medication, therapy, and recovery meetings, it can be treated.

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