How much is too much alcohol?

Nearly everybody knows about boozing, driving, the law, and the inter-relations thereof. Perhaps some of you have even encountered the Breathalyzer.

But there is more to drinking and health than not getting caught driving with a high blood-alcohol content. Does anyone know what a safe maximum daily intake is?

In a follow-up study of 7,000 adults, “moderate” or “no drinking” was one of the seven health habits shown by Californian researchers Belloc and Breslow to be linked with good health status and long life.

Heavy drinking, though, definitely does damage the body – especially the brain and liver. Many heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver, which is often fatal.

But heavy drinking can cause other kinds of physical damage – malnutrition, for example, which in turn can cause nerve and blood problems. Gastritis, pancreatitis, and sexual dysfunction are other consequences of heavy drinking.

So what is heavy drinking? Experts will tell you that it is a daily intake of 80 or more grams of alcohol. It is also dangerous to concentrate the drinking of smaller quantities of alcohol into short periods of time, e.g, 30 grams in one hour, 40 in two, and so on.

For those of you who may want gram equivalents in street language, here is the translation. Each of the following equals 10 grams of alcohol:

  • one eight-ounce beer
  • one three-ounce glass of table wine
  • one two-ounce glass of fortified wine
  • one ounce of spirits

Multiply these quantities by eight, and this is the daily consumption level at and above which drinking is hazardous to your health.

Naturally, it would be better for you to drink within safe limits. Guidelines for this are provided in a health education publication on the subject. You could drink with safety, according to this document, up to three schooners or five middies of beer a day.

If you prefer wine, you could have up to five (140ml) glasses a day, or five (60ml) glasses of the fortified wine. As for spirits, you could have up to five nips (30mls, or 1oz) a day before you’d be trouble-bound.

There are plenty of ways to cut down alcohol consumption. You can switch to low-alcohol beers, add more mixers to your spirits, add mineral water to your white wine, and become familiar with the new selections of non-alcoholic drinks. We’ll bet you can’t taste the difference!

Of course, the taste isn’t the only reason people drink alcoholic beverages. If you try to cut down your drinking and find you can’t do it, you may be hooked on the effects, rather than on the taste of alcohol.

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