Alcohol in Moderation: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Approximately 50% of American adults drink regularly and 29% report binge drinking within the past month.

That’s probably part of why the USDA and HHS say that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation and only by adults of legal drinking age.

So I thought I’d give you a little information about alcohol so you can decide for yourself.

What are the benefits of alcohol?

The positive or negative effects of drinking alcohol depend on various factors including the amount consumed, and the age, size, and other characteristics of the person who is drinking.

Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of all-cause mortality, and may help keep cognitive function intact with age.

But moderate alcohol intake is also associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle accidents.

Heavy drinking has no benefits and comes with many harmful effects I’m sure you are aware of. Binge drinking is associated with sexually transmitted disease, unintended pregnancy, violent crime, and more than half of the 79,000 deaths attributable to alcohol consumption in the U.S. each year.

As a result of all the harmful effects of alcohol, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more often on the basis of potential health benefits.

What is moderate drinking?

Moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.

Heavy drinking is more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week for men.

Binge drinking is 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men within 2 hours.

Is it okay to drink if I keep it moderate?

Even in moderation, some people should not drink alcohol:

  • Children and adolescents – drowning, car accidents, and traumatic injury are common causes of death in children and adolescents and alcohol consumption increases these risks even further.
  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – drinking during pregnancy may result in negative behavioral or neurological consequences in babies.
  • People on medications that may interact with alcohol – read the label, talk to your pharmacist.
  • Individuals with certain medical conditions – liver disease, high triglyceride levels, pancreatitis.
  • Those that plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination – swimming, boating, setting off fireworks, repairing a roof, etc.

Will alcohol make me gain weight?

Weight gain depends on calories. An extra 3500 calories will lead to 1 pound of weight gain. Different types of alcohol contain different amounts of calories. Here is a list of a few types of alcohol along with their approximate calorie content:

12 oz regular beer 144 calories
12 oz light beer 108 calories
5 oz white wine 100 calories
5 oz red wine 105 calories
3 oz sweet dessert wine 141 calories
1.5 oz 80 proof spirits (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) 96 calories
1.5 oz coffee liqueur 308 calories

Of course you have to remember that mixing drinks with soda, cream, juice, etc. also adds calories.

For example, a 4.5 oz pina colada comes to about 245 calories.

What’s your favorite low-calorie beverage option (alcoholic or not)?
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