Opinion: Alcohol & Health

Men and Women: Not Equal in Alcohol Consumption

When it comes to drinking alcohol, men and women are inherently unequal and it’s absolutely essential for the health and safety of women to understand this inequality and act accordingly. Contrary to common myth, not even men and women of the same height and weight experience the same effects from consuming identical amounts of alcohol.

Women are affected by alcohol more rapidly because they tend to have a higher proportion of body fat than men. Because fat can’t absorb alcohol, it is concentrated at higher levels in the blood. Women also have less of a gastric or stomach enzyme (dehydrogenase) that metabolizes or breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. Because of this, women absorb up to nearly 30% more alcohol into their bloodstream than men of the same height and weight who drink the same amount of alcohol. Women are also usually shorter and lighter than men, further concentrating alcohol in their blood. If women eat little or skip food entirely, that compounds the effects of drinking alcohol.

Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle can also affect alcohol metabolism adversely, increasing the impact of alcohol.

The fact is that women who hope to “hold their own” in drinking with men are putting themselves at great risk.

Although men and women are unequal when it comes to the effects of alcohol, that’s not true of alcohol beverages themselves. Standard drinks of beer, wine or distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol…they’re all the same to a breathalyzer.

To read more of Dr. Hanson’s research, visit Drinking: Men and Women are Unequal


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