These days, it’s difficult to watch television without seeing someone sipping a cocktail. Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture that you’ll find it at almost any social gathering you can imagine – even sometimes at baby showers. But all this exposure comes with a warning: Enjoy in moderation.
As he pours whiskey over ice, a brand spokesperson will tell you to drink responsibly. But what does this mean? And is it really necessary?
In some cases, as with drinking and driving, moderation is a matter of public safety. In all cases, though, it is a matter of personal health.
What is moderation?
You’ve heard the words over and over again, but what does it actually mean to drink in moderation? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans1, women should have no more than one drink per day while men can enjoy up to two.
And while we’re talking about drinks, we should also cover portion sizes. One drink is probably a lot smaller than you think.
One serving of alcohol should contain 14g of alcohol. This equates to 0.6 fl oz.
The following represent one serving of alcohol:
- 12-ounces of beer at 5% alcohol
- 5-ounces of wine at 12% alcohol
- 5-ounces of distilled spirits at 40% alcohol
Each of the serving sizes above contains the same amount of alcohol: 0.6 fl oz or 14g.
It’s important to note that these guidelines cover the recommended maximum alcohol intake on any given day. It isn’t a goal. In fact, you should try not to drink alcohol on most days. When you do drink, abide by the guidelines.
Why moderation matters
Some studies support the health benefits of drinking alcohol, but these all point back to moderation. Binge drinking (consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in a short time) negates any health benefits you may have otherwise experienced.
You probably know that drinking in excess can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver or other liver problems. Most people are aware of the connection between alcoholism and liver disease. But do you know that alcohol can affect your health in other ways? Drinking more than the recommended amount regularly can have the following effects:
When you drink alcohol over time, your body builds up a tolerance. This means that you’ll need more alcohol to get the same effect. You may be surprised to learn that you can even fall into alcoholism from drinking in moderation, but it’s much less likely.
Here’s how it happens: You come home from work every day and have one glass of wine. You’re careful about moderation, but you let yourself have two on days that were especially stressful. When you do this every day, your body will build a tolerance. So the two glasses of wine that used to relax you on rough days becomes three or four.
You may gradually increase your intake, but the problem is that you’re now drinking more than the recommended amount. Over time, this can lead to alcoholism. Alcohol addiction sneaks up on many people who thought they were being responsible.
If you find yourself having one or more drinks every night, take a 4-day break. The break will help reset your tolerance. If you have trouble stopping, you may already be on your way to alcoholism. Don’t kid yourself. Get help before it’s too late.
Most people don’t realize that drinking alcohol regularly will increase your risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. When your body digests alcohol, it converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a potent carcinogen. If you drink alcohol regularly, you will have an increased risk of mouth, throat, liver, breast and esophageal cancers. If any of these cancers run in your family, you’re that much more likely to develop them. Don’t take the risk. Keep your alcohol consumption to moderate levels.
- Heart disease
Binge drinking causes a host of health issues. One of them is the likelihood of experiencing blood clots. This type of drinking can double your chances of dying from a heart attack if you’ve already had one.
Drinking alcohol in excess can also lead to cardiomyopathy, which can be deadly. This condition weakens the heart muscle, causes irregular heart rhythms and can eventually cause your heart to fail.
- Memory loss and dementia
Have you ever had trouble remembering the previous night because you drank too much alcohol? Memory loss is one of the most common side effects of drinking too much alcohol. This happens because alcohol interferes with the process of transferring short-term memories. If you drink enough, you may remember what happened 10 minutes ago, but you’ll probably forget anything beyond that.
Over time, alcoholism can speed up shrinkage of key regions in the brain that is associated with memory loss and dementia.
You may feel amazing when you’re drunk or buzzed, but that’s all part of alcohol’s bait and switch plan. It draws you in with a promise of a good time, but behind the scenes, alcohol is actually a nervous system depressant.
We know that there’s a strong link between alcoholism and depression, but scientists aren’t exactly sure which came first. We do know, however, that depression is likely to subside when you stop drinking heavily.
Have you ever met someone who has been an alcoholic for years? You could probably tell. Their skin and hair appear dull and lifeless, and they have a ruddy complexion with broken capillaries. Alcohol will change your appearance for the worse, and you don’t have to be an alcoholic to notice changes. Since it’s a diuretic, alcohol will dehydrate you and cause you to retain water. It also helps usher vital beauty nutrients from your body like vitamin A. So if nothing else on this list scares you, maybe we can appeal to your vanity. When you drink alcohol in moderation, you don’t have to worry about appearance changes.
If you want to enjoy alcohol, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – as long as you can consume it in moderation.