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What is moderate drinking?

Medical researchers generally describe moderation as one to three drinks per day. It appears that consuming less than about half a drink per day is associated with only very small health benefits. Four or five drinks may be moderate for large individuals but excessive for small or light people. Because of their generally smaller size and other biological differences, the typical woman should generally consume 25 to 30 percent less than the average man. And, of course, recovering alcoholics, those with any adverse reactions to alcohol, and those advised against drinking by their physicians should abstain.

A drink is a 12 ounce can or bottle of beer, a five ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink). It is based on the best available scientific knowledge and recommends drinking alcohol in moderation (unless there is a good reason to abstain).

Drinking patterns appear to be as important as the amounts consumed. "The key to healthy, moderate consumption is a regular, one to three drinks per day pattern." 64 However, drinking a "weeks worth" of alcohol over a period of a few hours would be unhealthful, even dangerous, and clearly to be avoided.

All of the many health benefits of drinking apply only to moderate consumption - - never to heavy drinking. To the contrary, heavy drinking is associated with reduced longevity and increased risk of a diversity of diseases. Unfortunately, there really can be too much of a good thing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of and Health and Human Services define moderate drinking as no more than:

  • one drink a day for women and people over 60
  • two drinks a day for men (no more than one an hour).
  • They recommend the following people should not drink at all:

  • women who are pregnant or trying to conceive
  • people who plan to drive or engage in other activities that require attention or skill
  • people taking medication, including over-the-counter medications
  • recovering alcoholics
  • people under the age of 21.
  • A daily rather than weekly amount is suggested. It's healthier to drink a small amount daily than to binge (more than 4 drinks for men, more than 3 for women) on weekends or special occasions.

    More information on alcoholism and drinking

    What is alcoholism? - Alcoholism is an addictive dependency on alcohol characterised by craving, loss of control, physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
    What is alcohol abuse? - Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control, or physical dependence.
    What are the signs and symptoms of alcoholism? - People who abuse alcohol may experience many of the same signs and symptoms as people who are dependent on alcohol.
    What causes alcoholism? - D2 dopamine receptor gene increases a person's chance of developing alcoholism. Usually, a variety of factors contribute to the development of a problem with alcohol.
    What're the risk factors for alcoholism? - Steady drinking over time can produce a physical dependence on alcohol. Drinking over 14 drinks a week for men or seven drinks a week for women increases the risk of developing dependence on alcohol.
    What are the effects of alcoholism? - Alcohol depresses your central nervous system by acting as a sedative. In some people, the initial reaction may be stimulation, but as drinking continues, sedating or calming effects occur.
    What is fetal alcohol syndrome? - Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a group of birth defects caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
    What is moderate drinking? - Four or five drinks may be moderate for large individuals but excessive for small or light people. The typical woman should generally consume 25 to 30 percent less than the average man.
    What're the health benefits of moderate drinking? - Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers.
    What is alcoholism treatment? - Treatment may include detoxification (the process of safely getting alcohol out of one's system), taking doctor-prescribed medications, and individual and group counseling.
    What alternative therapy is available for alcoholism? - Acupuncture may reduce anxiety and depression, which lead some people to drink alcohol. Involving a spouse in the treatment process may increase the chances of success in treatment and in staying sober after treatment.
    Why does alcohol affect women differently? - Women are effected by alcohol more rapidly because they tend to have a higher proportion of body fat than men.
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