How much alcohol is too much?

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‘Drink in moderation’ is the familiar dictum when it comes to alcohol. But what exactly is the definition of ‘moderation’? And is there such a thing as a healthy amount of alcohol?

Despite its social appeal and possible benefits for heart health, alcohol is generally considered harmful for health because it contains the chemical ethanol, which is intoxicating and addictive. Alcohol is also high in calories: 1 gram = 7 calories.

According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB), women should limit themselves to one standard drink a day and men to two standard drinks a day. A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, and is equivalent to:

  • 330 ml (one can) of regular beer (158 kcal)
  • 100 ml of wine (140 kcal)
  • 30 ml of hard liquor (89 kcal)
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Why is there a lower alcohol limit for women?

A woman’s body typically takes longer to process alcohol. This is because women have a different fat-to-muscle ratio and a smaller blood volume than men. Women also have lower levels of the stomach enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase which helps in the digestion of alcohol.

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What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking refers to consuming about five or more standard drinks for a man, and four or more drinks for a women in one drinking session. Frequent binge drinking can have harmful long-term and short-term effects on your health.

When taken in excess, alcohol can increase your risk of:

  • Stroke
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Brain damage, memory loss
  • Sexual problems such as male impotency
  • Accidents
Photo: Pixabay

Tips for safe drinking

  • Eat before and during a drinking session to slow down alcohol absorption.
  • Avoid salty foods which may make you thirstier and cause you to drink more alcohol.
  • Drink slowly and sip your drink while eating.