What is Moderation?

If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

What is Moderation?
Women: No more than one drink a day
Men: No more than two drinks a day
(This limit is based on differences between the sexes in both weight and metabolism.)

Count as a Drink ...

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (150 calories)
  • 5 ounces of wine (100 calories)
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (100 calories)

Alcoholic beverages supply calories but few nutrients. Alcoholic beverages are harmful when consumed in excess, and some people should not drink at all. Excess alcohol alters judgment and can lead to dependency and a great many other serious health problems. Taking more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men can raise the risk for motor vehicle crashes, other injuries, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide and certain types of cancer.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy increases risk of birth defects. Too much alcohol may cause social and psychological problems, cirrhosis of the liver, inflammation of the pancreas, and damage to the brain and heart. Heavy drinkers also are at risk of malnutrition because alcohol contains calories that may substitute for those in nutritious foods. If adults choose to drink alcoholic beverages, they should consume them only in moderation and with meals to slow alcohol absorption.

Drinking in moderation may lower risk for coronary heart disease, mainly among men over age 45 and women over age 55. However, there are other factors that reduce the risk of heart disease, including a healthy diet, physical activity, avoidance of smoking, and maintenance of a healthy weight.

Moderate consumption provides little, if any, health benefit for younger people. Risk of alcohol abuse increases when drinking starts at an early age. Some studies suggest that older people may become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol as they age.

Advice For Today

  • If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly, and in moderation.

  • Limit intake to one drink per day for women or two per day for men. Eating food while drinking will slow alcohol absorption.

  • Avoid drinking before or when driving, or whenever it puts you or others at risk.

Fifth Edition, 2000, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services, pp. 36-37.

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