Alcohol and Nutrition

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideAlcohol Abuse Pictures Slideshow: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking

Alcohol Abuse Pictures Slideshow: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking

How much alcohol can you safely consume?

If you choose to consume alcohol, you need to do so with the knowledge of how much is safe for you personally and not base it on what others around you are consuming. The guidelines have been established to help you set limits on how much you consume in order to possibly gain some health benefits while avoiding health issues. These guidelines are as follows:

  • For healthy men up to age 60,
    • no more than four drinks in a day and
    • no more than 14 drinks in a week
  • For healthy women (and healthy men over age 60),
    • no more than three drinks in a day and
    • no more than seven drinks in a week.

One standard drink is

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol;
  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol;
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol.

To get an even better idea of how many drinks you may be having, here is a list of the number of standard drinks you would get in each of these:

Beer

  • 12 oz. = 1 standard drink
  • 22 oz. = 2 standard drinks
  • 16 oz. = 1.3 standard drinks
  • 40 oz. = 3.3 standard drinks

Table wine

  • a standard 750-mL (25-oz.) bottle = 5 standard drinks

Malt liquor (approximate number of standard drinks)

  • 12 oz. = 1.5 standard drinks
  • 22 oz. = 2.5 standard drinks
  • 16 oz. = 2 standard drinks
  • 40 oz. = 4.5 standard drinks

Going over the guidelines leaves you at risk for health complications and interferes with any possible health benefits you would gain. Moderation is the key here. Binge drinking and heavy drinking both fall into the dangerous category.

Binge drinking

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines binge drinking as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men -- in about two hours.

Heavy drinking

SAMHSA defines heavy drinking as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days.

The reason that people consume alcohol is clear, but the cost of this consumption is not. Alcohol is toxic to our bodies, and the cost can be irreversible when intake exceeds recommended levels. The damage is not limited to alcoholics, so everyone who consumes alcohol needs to pay attention to how much they are drinking, what they are drinking, and when they are doing so. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 2/17/2016
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