Q. I read that a drink a day could help prevent heart disease and diabetes. Both run in my family so I am interested. But I never know how big a drink is. Is it a shot glass, a juice glass or an 8-ounce drinking glass?

A. The benefits of alcohol in preventing chronic health problems such as heart disease or diabetes remain controversial. Most health experts warn that no one should ever start drinking alcohol for purported health effects. Everyone knows that excessive alcohol consumption causes a great deal of misery in the world.

That said, if you already drink moderately and responsibly, there is a significant amount of research suggesting that a drink or two may indeed confer some health benefits. Red wine, for example, has been linked to less atherosclerosis and improved cardiovascular outcomes.

Your question is crucial to this discussion. How do you determine the appropriate amount and how much is too much?

Research suggests that one drink a day for women and up to two daily for men can provide health benefits. Scientists define a drink as one ounce of 100 proof alcohol. This corresponds to five ounces of wine or twelve ounces of beer.

So…bottom line, one “drink” is not a juice glass (unless it contains 5 oz. of wine) and definitely not an 8-ounce drinking glass (unless it contains one beer).

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  1. Noelle

    Thank you for your stories and thoughts. It’s nice to hear others questioning what the docs are pushing.

  2. RML

    It strikes me as RIDICULOUS for the medical (read: pharmaceutical) community to be telling us that we should keep our alcohol consumption to 1 drink or less per day while pumping us full of prescription drugs to counteract the symptoms of the anxiety and stress that we live with daily. Human beings have been documented drinking fermented beverages (wine, beer) for thousands – tens of thousands of years.
    People have been taking prescription anti-anxiety drugs for what – the last 50 years at the most? I am a firm believer in using your BRAIN to tell you what is safe and what is right for you, instead of trying to find it in the bottom of a pill bottle. I say, go ahead ladies, drink what you need to in moderation, and above all else, BE HAPPY. You’ll live a much longer and healthier life from that alone.

  3. LMB

    See, that’s what I’m like too!
    3 glasses of red wine per day. 15 oz, I actually weigh it because I want to watch calories. I quit drinking just about anything else though – except on occasion.
    I have watched people at work this past cold/flu season go from the sniffles to walking pneumonia in a week… me – nada.
    I’m anxiety prone/Type A personality, work out 45 minutes per day or more a minimum of 5 days per week also to mitigate that vs. taking too many pills. (Dr’s tell you not to have more than one glass of red a day but then give you benzos – really?)
    I was just sort of cruising around… because I am somewhat concerned about liver stuff.
    I know any doctor in the states would tell me this is too much, some would say alcoholic – but I’m sitting here now with nothing in my system and not having DTs or anything…
    Also only 3rd generation out of Italy, where this is nothing.
    Confused if this is actually a health risk, or if it is a cultural taboo the Drs. promote because of their contracts w/big pharma?

  4. Noelle

    Cindy, I’ve wondered this myself as I tend to go for 2 or 3 glasses a day myself. What I keep hearing from doctors is they think I should drink a single glass of wine and no more, per day. Why men get to have 1 to 2 I’m uncertain. I can only guess it has to do with size but not all men are the same size nor are all women.
    My father has been told by his doctor to keep it to one glass, while he prefers 2 or 3 and I’ve been told by an acupuncturist before that any more than 1 glass for women increases the risk of breast cancer. But see, I know how easily research can be misinterpreted.
    I’m high strung too, so I certainly get it.
    If you feel healthy though, at your age, I’d say you probably are. And I hope you can stop worrying about it just as I hope I can. :)
    Oh one other tidbit, a while back I came across some research that said those who drink 3 or more glasses of red wine a day have 60% less colds than those who drink less. According to the research one has to drink 3 or more to get that benefit. Two glasses won’t do it.
    So bottom line is I don’t know and I’ve got the feeling all the information isn’t in on this one yet.
    ~ N.

  5. Cindy B.

    I’m a 63yo F who is quite healthy overall, looks much younger than my age, is an expert skier, active hiker, etc… You’d never guess that for most of my adult life I’ve consumed about 5 drinks per day. Increasingly mindful of the health risks of this consumption, I managed to cut it down to 3 drinks per day a few years back — one beer in the mid-afternoon, one beer several hours later, and a glass of wine before bed. I rarely if ever have more than one drink in my system. My drinking is very stable and has never caused any kind of problem for me.
    My idea is that 3 drinks per day spread way out is much healthier than 3 drinks per day in one sitting…. i.e., that INTENSITY (of blood-alcohol level) is more damaging than FREQUENCY. But I don’t know for sure. I have written SO MANY places with this question, and nobody — NOBODY! — will even attempt to answer it. I’m simply given the old line that one “shouldn’t drink.” I already know that! If I was told definitively that frequency and intensity are equally important, then I’d somehow manage to curtail my consumption further, as I really want to live a long life. But I’m high-strung and really enjoy my alcohol. Otherwise, I eat stupendously healthily, avoid all chemicals, exercise, etc.

  6. ff

    FYI: an ounce is a shot glass full. To my benefit I’ve been enjoying one drink with my dinner for years. However, it can be addictive. Be careful!

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