The previous post links to an article in which researchers show that two drinks may not be all that good for your heart. The health effects of drinking wine have always been a little contentious because excess consumption does have serious health consequences and yet moderate levels of alcohol have been shown to have significant benefits. But what is moderate consumption?
In Australia the guidelines to limit health and social risks suggest that:
Men should drink no more than 4 standard drinks a day, on average
And never more than 6 standard drinks in one day.
Women should drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day, on average
And never more than 4 standard drinks in one day.
Everyone should have 1 or 2 alcohol-free days every week.
In the USA the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking in moderation is defined as having no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.
Moreover heavy drinking, in men, is typically defined as consuming an average of more than 2 drinks per day. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming an average of more than 1 drink per day.
So the interpretation of moderate alcohol consumption can vary between countries, but what about the definition of a standard drink? According to the International Center for Alcohol Policies “Official “drinks” or “units” generally contain between 8 and 14 grams of pure ethanol, although the measure varies among countries", and they are not kidding! For example in the UK its 7.9 grams of alcohol (by weight) while in Japan its 19.75 grams. That is a 2.5 fold difference. And that is reflected in the drinking guidelines for the same countries.
What is the take home message? Its quite simple. When you see a report proclaiming the good (or bad) health effects of wine (or alcohol) consumption make sure you check how much alcohol (weight or volume) was involved. Don’t just rely on information about how many drinks are recommended.