The Ideal Amount of Alcohol to Drink
While the ideal amount of alcohol to drink doesn't apply to everyone, most people will benefit from one or two drinks most nights, according to an exhaustive new analysis by the National Institutes of Health
in Bethesda, Md. Frequency is the key. Five or six drinks on a Saturday night provide no health
The Associated Press calls alcohol the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the medical
world: Drinking too much causes serious problems, while drinking a little may help many people's health. It's figuring out the right amount that is so tricky. "We are not encouraging anybody to start drinking," Lorraine Gunzerath of the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol, told AP.
The report's conclusions are aimed at people who already drink:
* How much alcohol you can safely consume must be customized by your age, gender, and overall medical history
. See your doctor for that.
* Population-wide advice: Two drinks a day for men
and one drink a day for women. This amount is linked to lower mortality and is unlikely to cause harm.
shouldn't exceed four drinks on any day, and women should never have more than three. Bingeing is always bad!
* For people who are over 40, consuming one to four drinks daily significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, the nation's leading killer; however, more isn't better. Consume five or more drinks daily and your risk of heart disease soars.
* Frequency is key. Consuming smaller amounts of alcohol several times a week, which is one or two drinks daily or every other day, is most heart-protective. Low and regular exposure to alcohol raises levels of the body's "good" HDL cholesterol, which thins blood.
* The alcohol-breast cancer link is still controversial with differing results from scientific studies. Bottom line: There's a tiny risk.
* One to two drinks a day several times a week seems to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes by helping the body use insulin to process blood sugar better.
* If you're pregnant, don't drink.
The study findings were published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research