Is Happy Hour Hurting Your Health? A Few Ways to Drink Smarter

Alcohol

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conclude that excessive alcohol use is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year and cost $249 billion in economic expenses in 2010.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), genetics may play a factor in whether a person develops alcoholism or not. “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcohol use disorder,” NIAAA reports. For example, some people of Asian descent carry a gene that affects the way they metabolize alcohol and may cause an unpleasant drinking experience with nausea, flushing and rapid heartbeat. A person with this gene may be less inclined to drink and if they do, they may develop alcoholism. There is even a gene that is associated with the tendency to consume alcohol during pregnancy. Expectant mothers who carry a variant of this gene tend to consume more alcohol and are recommended to stay away from alcohol during pregnancy because of the increased risk of premature birth.

Aside from genetics, there are environmental factors, including traumatic life events and depression, that may lead to alcohol abuse.  

How much is too much?

Just like how you may measure proportions of food, you should do this with alcohol as well. According to NIAAA, one standard drink has about 0.6 fluid oz or 14 gm. A glass of wine should be about 5 oz, and if you are drinking distilled spirits you should keep it to about 1.5 oz in one drink.

Recommended alcohol consumption amounts are also different for males and females. NIAAA says men should have no more than four drinks on a single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. Women should have no more than three drinks on a single day and no more than seven drinks per week.

You need to be especially careful if you are over the age of 65. Older adults should have no more than three drinks on a single day and no more than seven drinks per week, according to NIAAA.

You might be telling yourself, these limits are high! I don’t nearly drink that much on a single day or in one week.

However, are you pouring more than a five oz glass of wine when you unwind after a long day? According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “[d]rinkers have difficulty defining and pouring standard drinks with over-pouring being the norm such that intake volume is typically underestimated.”

Bars and restaurants tend to over-pour as well. A study published in NIH did a focus group with bartenders in 80 different establishments in Northern California counties. The study revealed, “[t]he average wine drink was found to be 43% larger than a standard drink with no difference between red and white wine. The average draught beer was 22% larger than the standard. Spirits drinks differed by type with the average shot being equal to one standard drink while mixed drinks were 42% larger.”

You are probably drinking more than you realize.  

We previously blogged about how excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of certain diseases including cancer, but you may not know much about how alcohol depletes nutrients from your body. And did you know the process of metabolizing alcohol requires nutrients?

An in-depth report on alcoholism from the New York Times says, “[p]eople with alcoholism should be sure to take vitamin and mineral supplements. Even apparently well-nourished people with alcoholism may be deficient in important nutrients.”

Even if you are not an alcoholic, regular alcohol consumption can aid in depleting your body of vital nutrients. On top of that, you may already have mineral deficiencies you are not aware of. The combination of alcohol and existing deficiencies could prevent you from feeling your best.

What are some of the minerals alcohol depletes?

Magnesium

Magnesium is very important for gut health and digestion, and many people with a heavy alcohol dependency have a deficiency in this critical mineral. Magnesium may even help prevent colon cancer.

Iron

Alcohol depletes the body of iron, a mineral that is very important for mental health. People with low iron are at a greater risk of developing depression. Furthermore, without adequate iron your body cannot carry enough oxygen to your vital organs. Low iron can also cause you too feel fatigue. That hangover you may have after too much drinking is from the alcohol depleting minerals and other nutrients!

Alcohol also depletes the body of additional critical minerals including calcium (the most abundant mineral in the body), zinc, manganese, potassium and chromium.

To find out just how critical these minerals are and how they can protect you from disease and help you live as your healthiest self, read  Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.   

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