Beer, Wine, Cocktails: The Numbers and Your Health

April 30, 2018

alcohol and healthDo you remember that 60 Minutes piece by Morley Safer that reported the health benefits of red wine? It was back in 1991 and it helped revive a declining wine industry. The segment was called the “French Paradox,” the unexplained reason for the French eating more fat food than Americans but having fewer heart attacks.

How could that be? One glass of red wine per day seemed to be the answer. Since then people realized that very moderate drinking could not only be pleasurable, but also healthy.

So what amount of alcohol is a moderate amount for you? We consulted with a website produced by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as part of the National Institutes of Health for some answers. It’s called Rethinking Drinking and here’s what we found.

What Counts as a Drink?
First off, a standard drink in the United States is one that contains .6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of “pure” alcohol. It’s the amount of alcohol in the drink, not necessarily the volume of the liquid.

So the definition of one drink is a regular can of beer with 5% alcohol (remember, the craft beer craze has brought on a slew of high alcohol beers), a glass of 5 fluid ounces of table wine, or 1.5 ounces (one shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits. If you like an aperitif after dinner, 2-3 ounces will count as one drink.

How Many Drinks Are Okay?
We found an interesting statistic on the Rethinking Your Drinking website about people who drink moderately. A nationwide survey of 43,000 U.S. adults by the National Institutes of Health found that only 2 in 100 people who drink within the single day and weekly limits below have an alcohol disorder.

How many drinks signify low risk levels for most people?

It’s different for men and women. If men stick to no more than 4 drinks on any given day AND no more than 14 drinks per week, they are within the low risk limits. For women, it’s no more than 3 drinks on any given day AND no more than 7 drinks per week.

Note the per week limits. A man can’t drink 4 drinks a day every day and be within the low risk limit. 14 per week is an average of just two drinks per day. For women, it’s an average of one drink per day.

Though these limits are “low risk,” they are not “no risk.” Age, health, how fast you drink are all considerations in the low risk category.

How Many Drinks Are Too Many?
If healthy, low risk drinking amounts to two drinks a day for men and one for women, what constitutes too many?

The easy answer is that consuming more drinks than the limits above makes you “at-risk” or a heavy drinker. One in four people who exceed these limits already has an alcohol disorder while the rest are in danger of developing one.

Here are the drinking patterns and chances that they lead to an alcohol disorder.

  • One heavy drinking day a month = a two in 10 chance of having an alcohol disorder.
  • One heavy drinking day a week = a 3 in 10 chance of a disorder.
  • Two or more heavy drinking days a week and your chances of an alcoholic disorder are 5 in 10!

As many families know, this can lead to personal, work, and health problems.

Of course, one of our main concerns at SZW Insurance is drinking and driving. This is so dangerous that, well, we’re sure you’ve heard about the many tragedies that occur from drinking and driving. And our local police departments are not sympathetic to drunk drivers. So no matter how many you drink, don’t drive.

But we also think that if you can drink within the “okay” limits above, you’ll have fun, relax, and maybe even improve your health. So next time you’re with friends and family, really mean it when you say, “Let’s have one!”

To your health!

Until next time
Your SZW Team

PS. The website offers a terrific booklet, Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health. We highly recommend you download it.

SZW Insurance is your Utica area independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here.