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Alcohol has become a symbol of cultural lifestyle – it is used to both celebrate and mourn. There are more problems than benefits with alcohol. Alcohol abuse can lead to a weakened immune system, damage organs and play a major role in development of cancers. Consuming alcohol in small quantities has some health benefits too. However, you need to be aware of what constitutes a moderate limit.

It is really difficult to define ‘moderate’ drinking. People often get confused with ‘social’ drinking, which is considered to be a few drinks consumed occasionally at a social event. Moderate drinking can be defined as a limit that keeps you and the people around you safe.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have set the moderate alcohol limit of no more than two drinks a day for men and for women it’s not more than one drink a day. Here’s the breakdown of what constitutes a standard drink:

  • 12 fluid ounces of beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 8 to 9 fluid ounces of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of hard liquor (about 40% alcohol)

The limit may vary depending on your age, gender, ethnicity, genes, physical condition, amount of food consumed before drinking, use of medication, family history of alcohol-related problems and the environment you live in.

The most widely used alcohol is ethanol – an intoxicating ingredient found in alcoholic beverages like beer and wine. It is produced after the fermentation of yeast, sugars and starches.

How does alcohol affect the body?

Alcohol affects all organs in the body. The intensity level is directly related to the amount consumed. Alcohol hampers the central nervous system and acts as a depressant. Once it’s metabolized in the liver by enzymes, the excess alcohol is circulated throughout the body.

You can develop problems even if you consume too much alcohol too quickly. Certain medical conditions simply abstain you from drinking. And others who should not drink alcohol include women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, people who plan to drive a vehicle and recovering alcoholics. Not to forget people under the age of 21 who are legally not allowed to drink anyway.

Research reveals that women become easily drunk than men at an equivalent quantity of alcohol because it is much slower for alcohol to break down in the stomach in women.

Let us look at some of pros and cons of moderate drinking:

Benefits

There are both psychological and physiological benefits of moderate drinking. According to studies done on people who consume lower levels of alcohol, it is found that stress levels are greatly reduced and promote pleasant feelings.

In middle-aged adults, a daily intake of one to two alcoholic beverages per day is associated with the lowest mortality rates.

It increases the appetite and helps bowel function amongst the elderly.

There is evidence to support that moderate drinking decreases the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Risks

If you believe that moderate drinking is safe and healthy, you are wrong. Although low level consumption of alcohol decreases risk of strokes caused by blocked blood vessels, however there is a risk of stroke caused by bleeding.

Drinking and driving as we know is not a safe option at all as impairment of driving-related abilities could lead to accidents and crashes. United States the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set the amount of alcohol intake to 0.08%. Some of the common effects include slower reactions, poor judgement of speed and distance and reduced field of vision. Alcohol also makes you feel over-confident and lead to taking more risks while driving, which could put yourself and other road-users in danger.

We know there has been a rise in youth hooliganism in recent times, often a direct result of under-age drinking. Alcohol addiction is also responsible for leading to many broken homes, a fact that can turn the lives of young children in the affected homes upside down.

Alcohol affects the function of the central nervous system, especially if you are taking medications such as painkillers, sleeping pills, antidepressants and anticonvulsants.

There is some evidence to support moderate drinking could lead to breast cancer among women. Consuming larger amounts of alcohol could also lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, brain damage and cancer.

More adults have started to quit drinking alcohol in America primarily to have a good health and to sleep better. Here are a few tips. If you want to cut down or quit your drinking set a limit and stick to it. Avoid places where excessive drinking occurs and if you drink at home, stock only small quantities of alcohol to avoid the temptation.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and community health organisations all over the world are doing their bit to raise awareness of the dangers associated with alcohol abuse.

You decide

As stated above, drinking moderate levels of alcohol has both benefits and risks. The medical fraternity insists individuals to make informed decisions about alcohol use. And moderate drinkers should be aware of the consequences and decide for themselves as to what kind of role they want alcohol to play in their lives.

Sources:
1) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
2) The National Cancer Institute
3) Alcoholics Anonymous