Extensive research was done on alcohol consumption. There is some conflicting evidence if no alcohol consumption is better for health or limited alcohol consumption is better. According to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. This may be considered as a safe limit of alcohol consumption.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent - or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter - or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.
Heavy Alcohol Use:
NIAAA defines heavy alcohol use as more than 4 drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women.
SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
The gender differences in the recommendations are due to diversities in body composition, physiology, and weight. They are:
Body fat: Women’s body has more fat and less water. Fat tends to retain alcohol while water dilutes it. So, women’s body retains alcohol for longer duration, thus exposing the brain and other body parts to alcohol.
Enzymes like alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase are present in lower quantity in women than in men. So the metabolism of alcohol is very slow in women.
Changes during menstrual cycle also influence the metabolism of alcohol.
Though the recommendations say that two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women is safer, in the long term, alcohol consumption has been proved to be dangerous and is linked from simple gastritis to deadly cancers.
It can lead to alcoholic liver disease, which includes inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis.
It is bad for the cardiovascular system, leading to an increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeats.
It can lead to anemia, low platelets, and decreased immunity.
It is a cause of osteoporosis.
It increases the risk of stroke and can lead to dementia or impaired balance and coordination.
It increases the risk of depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
It can reduce fertility in men and women and also decrease a man’s sexual drive. Drinking during pregnancy can also affect the health of the fetus.
It can cause malnutrition.
It causes various types of cancers like cancer of the colon, esophagus, liver, mouth, rectum, throat, and voice box. In women, even a few drinks a week is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
One can reduce these risks by cutting back on the amount or frequency of drinking. One should note that even low-risk alcohol use does not indicate zero risk. While it may be safe to consume two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women, there are still some associated risks.