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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – Why are lower levels of drinking recommended for women than for men?

Why are lower levels of drinking recommended for women than for men?

Among women who drink, 13 percent have more than seven drinks per week.

For women, this level of drinking is above the recommended limits published in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

What is a drink?

In the United States, a standard drink is one that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content

5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content

1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content

Unfortunately, although the “standard” drink amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes. A large cup of beer, an overpoured glass of wine, or a single mixed drink could contain much more alcohol than a standard drink. In addition, while the alcohol concentrations listed are “typical,” there is considerable variability in alcohol content within each type of beverage (e.g., beer, wine, distilled spirits).

Why are lower levels of drinking recommended for women than for men?

Because women are at greater risk than men for developing alcohol-related problems. Alcohol passes through the digestive tract and is dispersed in the water in the body. The more water available, the more diluted the alcohol. As a rule, men weigh more than women, and, pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. Therefore, a woman’s brain and other organs are exposed to more alcohol and to more of the toxic byproducts that result when the body breaks down and eliminates alcohol.

Breast cancer: Research suggests that as little as one drink per day can slightly raise the risk of breast cancer in some women, especially those who are postmenopausal or have a family history of breast cancer. It is not possible, however, to predict how alcohol will affect the risk for breast cancer in any one woman.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Drinking by a pregnant woman can harm her unborn baby, and may result in a set of birth defects called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most common known preventable cause of mental impairment. Babies with FAS have distinctive changes in their facial features and they may be born small. The brain damage that occurs with FAS can result in lifelong problems with learning, memory, attention, and problem solving. These alcohol-related changes in the brain may be present even in babies whose appearance and growth are not affected. It is not known if there is any safe drinking level during pregnancy; nor is there any stage of pregnancy in which drinking—at any level—is known to be risk free. If a woman is pregnant, or wants to become pregnant, she should not drink alcohol. Even if she is pregnant and already has consumed alcohol, it is important to stop drinking for the rest of her pregnancy. Stopping can reduce the chances that her child might be harmed by alcohol.

Another risk of drinking is that a woman may at some point abuse alcohol or become alcoholic (alcohol dependent). Drinking four or more drinks on any given day OR drinking eight or more drinks in a typical week increases a woman’s risk of developing alcohol abuse or dependence.




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