Health: How much alcohol makes for good or bad intake?

Jul 22, 2014, 08:16 IST | Dhara Vora and Kanika Sharma

A new study conducted in the UK reveals that people who drink alcohol less have a 10% lower risk of coronary heart diseases. The guide advises on the ideal tipple factor

Alcohol intake

How good is good?
Nutritionist and food consultant Anjali Peswani tells us, “These minimum permissible amounts of alcohol is only for those who just can’t do without their fill every day. The best thing would be to avoid alcohol. Even with this minimum consumption, one has to have a good diet, workout regularly, and be careful of what they mix their alcohol with as any alcohol on its own contains 180 to 220 kcal. It is the thing you mix it with that adds to the calories. Also, the problem is people don’t stop after the prescribed limit. So, for those who drink regularly, these minimal limits don’t make sense.”


The study
A study in the British Medical Journal on July 10 revealed that non-drinkers and those with reduced alcohol intake are at a lower risk of coronary heart disease. This challenges the age-old theory that a glass of wine a day can help your heart. The research was based on the drinking habits of over 2,50,000 people in 56 studies examined by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London and the US’ University of Pennsylvania. So, sipping on a glass of wine a day or less than a pint of beer a day can also have negative effects on your health.


A friend of the heart?
>> The protection of the heart by the consumption of the wine is overestimated, despite it has flavonoids and antioxidants. Dr Pillai points out that the percentage of alcohol in any kind of spirit greatly varies. Also, it also depends on what kind of body constitution is drinking it — the presence of liver enzymes and how alcohol is oxidised and metabolised.

There are two kinds of patterns in which alcohol is consumed — binge drinking and drinking small quantities consistently over a period of time. There are different measures for both men and women due to their varying metabolic rates.

Even if consumed consistently, there should be at least two alcohol-free days for men and three days for women. For men, 21 units and for women, 14 to 15 unit of alcohol is permissible, in a week. That makes it three to four units for men and two to three units for women. For spirits like wine (which contains 14% alcohol), one glass contains 1-1.5 units. Half a pint of beer i.e. about 180 to 200 ml of beer will be equivalent to two to three units.

For hard drinks like whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum (which contain about 40% alcohol) the count of units will be higher. For instance, a 25 ml peg of whiskey contains 2-2.5 units of alcohol. Therefore, alcohol should be consumed with great caution as it doesn’t look as innocent as it is.     

Inputs courtesy: Dr Sudhir Pillai, cardiologist, Hinduja Hospital

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