Go to a party, a family dinner, a sporting event, or any kind of social gathering and you are very likely to find alcohol. Usually, alcohol gives people a sense of stronger social confidence and sets the tone of relaxation in a social environment. Alcohol is consumed worldwide and on a very regular basis. You have probably heard that a drink or two a day is good for one’s health, and there may be some truth to it, but you may also know that excessive alcohol drinking can cause negative side effects to one’s health. So how much alcohol can you drink in a day, and what is considered to be excessive?

Alcohol in Moderation: 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is said to be having 1 drink per day for women, and up to 2 drinks per day for men. What constitutes as 1 drink? 

  •  12 fluid ounces of Beer
  •  5 fluid ounces of Wine
  •  1.5 fluid ounces of Distilled Spirits (80 Proof)

Alcohol intake in moderation may have some health benefits that include reducing risk for heart disease, increasing of HDL (good) cholesterol, reduce risk of ischemic stroke, and possibly reduce the risk for diabetes. It is not recommended to begin consuming alcohol for these possible health benefits as there are other ways to reduce the risk of the diseases listed above such as consuming a healthier diet, as well as increasing physical activity.

What is considered excessive or binge drinking? 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females on the same occasion. If done often chronic heavy drinking can have some very serious health effects and increase risk for

  •  Cardiovascular disease
  •  Stroke
  •  High blood pressure
  •  Cirrhosis
  •  Pancreatitis
  •  Depression
  •  Seizures
  •  Cancer

In addition to the listed above, alcohol can contribute to weight gain if consumed regularly and excessively. There are 7 calories per gram of alcohol, almost as much as in a gram of fat (9 calories per gram).

  •  12 fluid ounces of Beer = 150 calories
  •  5 fluid ounces of Wine = 125 calories
  •  1.5 fluid ounces of Distilled Spirits = 105 calories

As you may see, small amounts of alcohol can add a large amount of unnecessary calories to your diet that may lead to unwanted weight gain.

Alcohol also has some very negative side effects with certain medications. Alcohol should not be consumed if you are taking medication for depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, seizures, cough medicine, blood clotting and many more. Taking Tylenol (acetaminophen) after heavy drinking can potentially cause acute liver failure or some degree of liver damage. It is also important to note that eating a very low carb diet or using a ketogenic diet may increase the risk for liver damage as opposed to a non-low carb diet.

For further reading:

Examine: Alcohol 

Alcohol and Medication Interactions 

Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Alcohol 

Created by Ricardo Blanco, Student Asst. 
Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD 


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