Women May Benefit More From Alcohol Than Men
1-2 Drinks Regularly Boosts Health and Well-Being
May 14, 2004 -- Cheers! A drink or two on a regular basis helps
your overall physical and mental health, new research shows. Women seem to
benefit the most from moderate amounts of drinking.
It's an issue that's not been well understood, writes lead
researcher Carla A. Green, PhD, MPH, with Kaiser Permanente Center for Health
Many studies have examined the health problems caused by binge
drinking or heavy drinking. Other research has found that light to moderate
drinking appears to protect physical and mental health. But researchers say
that differences in the metabolism of alcohol and body composition between the
men and women may lead to sex-specific consequences. For example, studies have
shown that postmenopausal women who drink lightly have greater breast cancer
risk when compared with abstainers.
Does drinking alcohol affect men and women differently? Just
how much is OK? Green's study investigating these issues appears in the latest
issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
She and her colleagues surveyed 3,069 men and 2,600 women about
their drinking patterns and their overall physical and mental health.
Light to moderate drinking -- and doing it more frequently --
was associated with better general health, physical function, and mental health
for both men and women.
The beneficial effects of drinking alcohol for general health
and physical function were stronger for women than for men.
The beneficial effects for emotional well-being were the same
for men and women.
She defines light to moderate drinking as one to two drinks per
occasion, two or more times per week.
"The main effects of gender on health were the strongest
among abstainers," Green writes. "It is possible that this reflects
greater likelihood that women will avoid or stop drinking in response to health
concerns than men."
Green says her results do provide greater understanding of the
link between drinking alcohol and its effects on health in the general
population. They conclude that women's health may benefit more from moderate
drinking than men's.