Why Is Drinking Less Alcohol Good for You?

Medically Reviewed on 1/10/2022

Adults should drink in moderation, if they drink alcohol at all. If you do choose to drink alcohol, it's always better to drink less than to drink more.
Adults should drink in moderation, if they drink alcohol at all. If you do choose to drink alcohol, it's always better to drink less than to drink more.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is known to be bad for you. In fact, heavy alcohol use caused around 95,000 deaths in the United States from 2011 to 2015. It is also commonly said that alcohol is bad for both your mental and physical health. But how exactly is this true? Read on to understand the adverse effects of alcohol on your mind and body.

How much is too much alcohol?

One drink is defined as a beverage with .6 ounces of pure alcohol. For different types of alcoholic beverages, this translates to:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor or distilled spirits

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, drinking heavily, or drinking anything at all when you're pregnant or younger than 21. Binge drinking is the most common way for people to drink excessively, and is defined as consuming:

  • Women: four or more drinks at a time
  • Men: five or more drinks in one sitting

Heavy drinking, on the other hand, is defined as having:

  • Women: eight or more drinks per week
  • Men: fifteen or more drinks a week

Adults over the legal drinking age should drink in moderation, if they drink alcohol at all. If you do choose to drink alcohol, it's always better to drink less than to drink more. Moderate drinking is defined as:

  • Women: no more than one drink a day
  • Men: no more than two drinks a day

Certain people should not drink alcohol under any circumstances. This includes:

  • People under the age of 21 
  • People who are pregnant or who want to become pregnant
  • People who are planning on driving a vehicle or doing anything that requires clarity of mind
  • People taking medication that interacts with alcohol
  • People who have certain medical conditions
  • People recovering from alcoholism and those who are not able to control how much they drink

Benefits of avoiding alcohol

Here are some of the positive effects of reducing your alcohol consumption or avoiding alcohol altogether:

  • Minimize empty calories. Alcoholic beverages can contain an incredible amount of calories. For example, there are around 600 calories in a single bottle of wine. These calories provide very little nourishment for your body. Cutting out or reducing your alcohol consumption is a great way to reduce how many empty calories you consume, which can improve your overall health.
  • Improve your sleep. Drinking alcohol can disturb your sleep. Reducing how much and how often you drink alcohol can lead to more regular and restful sleep.
  • Improve your skin. Often, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can impact the quality of your skin. Alcohol dehydrates your skin and widens your blood vessels, making your skin red, splotchy, and dry. Drinking less alcohol may help your skin look clearer and more hydrated.
  • Reduce stress. While alcohol has a short-term relaxing effect, the opposite is true in the long run. Over time, alcohol use can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress.

Long-term alcohol use is also associated with a higher risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Drinking less can help minimize this risk and make your body happier and healthier.

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What are the health risks of drinking too much alcohol?

Excessive drinking comes with the following short-term health risks:

Long-term excessive drinking also puts you at risk of the following health issues:

Drinking large amounts of alcohol for many years can cause damage to your body's organs. These are the organs that are known to be affected most by long-term alcohol consumption:

Additionally, drinking excessively for long periods of time can lead to alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. These symptoms can worsen with each attempt to quit. Often, withdrawal symptoms include tremors, agitation, and convulsions.

Alcohol also significantly affects the brain and central nervous system. When your body is suddenly no longer exposed to alcohol after a long period of dependency, you may experience overstimulation of your brain cells, leading to certain symptoms such as seizures. If possible, talk to a healthcare provider so you can set a plan to stop drinking safely.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/10/2022
References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Alcohol and Public Health."

M Healthy: "Alcohol Management fact sheet: Benefits of Drinking Less Alcohol."

NHS: "Risks Alcohol misuse."

nidirect: "How alcohol affects your health."