Previously, we talked about the increase in drinking since the beginning of pandemic, the downsides of alcohol and its effects on cardiovascular disease and cancer. This post will cover how much you can drink how often and where alcohol’s “health halo” came from.
How much is too much?
The government breaks out risky versus reasonable alcohol consumption
- Light drinking 1 to 6 drinks per week
- Moderate alcohol consumption 7 drinks a week for women, up to 14 for men
- High-Risk/Heavy Alcohol Use. 3 drinks or more on a single occasion or more than 7 per week for women; more than 4 drinks daily or more than 14 per week for men.
For women, heavy drinking is 8 or more drinks in a week. For men, it’s 15 drinks or more in a week, according to the CDC. What Is Excessive Alcohol Use? (cdc.gov)
Is your glass to blame? What about calories?
Glass size has expanded since the 1990s. Whether it’s wine glasses, mixed drink glasses such as martini or cocktail, or beer glasses, the amount they hold has gone up substantially.
Evidence suggests wine glass size itself influences consumption; the bigger the glass, the more a person imbibes. And if you want “proof,” just take a look at the vintage glasses in antique shops or even your grandmother’s china cabinet. The glasses look positively tiny!
A 6-ounce glass of red or white wine – the amount in a restaurant pour – contains about 150 calories. A large restaurant pour, a 9 ounce glass, reaches 220 calories.
A 12-ounce can or bottle of an average 5% alcohol brew like Budweiser hovers around 150 calories.
At a bar when you’re served a 16 to 20 ounce glass the calories soar to 200 or 250 calories.
Martini or Manhattan typically fall in the 150 to 200 calorie range
Margaritas range from 200 calories (unsweetened in a small glass). Sugary, often frozen margaritas jump to 350 calories, oversized ones reach 500 calories.
Why does alcohol have such a health halo?
The scientific debate over moderate drinking goes back to the 1970s when researchers observed that teetotalers seemed to have more heart attacks than people who drink moderately. In the years that followed, observational studies looking at large populations showed a J-shaped curve between alcohol and mortality from all causes. Death rates were lower for moderate drinkers compared to those who abstain, then climbed higher among those who drank over one to two drinks a day.
Yet one factor must be recognized: Socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of health and life span and tracks with drinking levels. Compared to heavy drinkers and those who do not drink, people who drink moderately tend to be wealthier and be more educated. They experience better health care, are more physically active, have healthier diets and maintain better weights.
What to do
Do not drink because you think it will make you healthier. Drinking less is generally better for health than drinking more.
If your drinking has gotten a bit out of hand since the beginning of the pandemic, you’re not alone. Take an objective look at the amount you’re consuming in a day; better yet in a week. And cut down if you’re overdoing it.
If you’re truly drinking moderately, around the equivalent of 1-5 five-ounce glasses of wine in a week, you’re fine, especially if you’re consuming the wine with meals.