How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
Many people enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine or beer after a long day. You may have heard that drinking some alcohol is good for your health — but how much is too much?
Alcohol Consumption Recommendations
According to health organizations, adults should aim not to exceed moderate drinking limits. Moderate drinking is up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. They also caution against binge drinking, which is four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men in the same sitting or within a couple of hours.
In the United States, a standard drink is the amount found in 12 ounces (355 mL) of regular beer, 5 ounces (150 mL) of wine, or 1.5 ounces (45 mL) of spirits (like vodka, gin, tequila, etc.)
Females and Alcohol
Your sex and genetics can affect the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol, which is one reason why men are “allowed” twice as much alcohol as women. Women often have lower activity of an enzyme involved in alcohol metabolism (alcohol dehydrogenase). This means women metabolize alcohol more slowly, making them more susceptible to its effects.
Women also tend to have lower body weights, higher fat ratios, and less water than men’s bodies, which increases the rate of alcohol getting into the blood. However, these characteristics are not seen across the board, as many men can have low body weights and low ADH activity.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to weight gain because alcohol is high in calories and can cause inflammation in the body, which leads to increased fat storage.
Excess alcohol can harm the liver because it has to work so hard to detoxify the harmful compounds in alcohol. This can lead to fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and, eventually, liver failure.
Increased Cancer Risk
Some cancers show reduced risk with moderate alcohol consumption. But, other cancers (mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, and liver) increase in risk if alcohol is consumed in excess.
The Bottom Line
Moderately drinking alcohol — just one drink per day for women — may support overall health and longevity. However, anything more than that can increase the risk of several diseases, including liver disease and cancer, and cause unhealthy body weights.