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Alcohol: How much is bad for you?


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Do you drink alcohol? How much? The second question opens up a can of worms (or more beers?). How much is really bad for you? What is the safe range or limit?

Before you drink and attempt to answer that, let’s take a little step backward and look at the label on your drink (cask, can or bottle). If you drink in bars or pubs, the serving sizes are usually consistent with the standard. If you drink at home, you may be pouring into different glass sizes or even drinking directly from the To better gauge how much you’re actually drinking, use the standard drinks measure. It’s a quick and easy way to know how much alcohol you’re drinking. In New Zealand and Australia, all beer cans, bottles of wine and other bottles of alcohol display the number of standard drinks they contain.

One standard drink is equivalent to 10 grams of pure alcohol. However instead of focusing on the size of the drink, pay attention to the amount of alcohol (number of standard drinks) it contains. The standard drink measure tells you how much alcohol (not total fluid) you drank.

The above measurements are rough examples of the amount of alcohol in your drinks. To be certain you’re well within the safe limits, remember to check the label. Other countries like the UK measure the amount of alcohol you drink in units. One unit is equivalent to 8g of pure alcohol.

Allowable (but not recommended!) daily and weekly drinking guidelines in New Zealand and Australia to reduce alcohol related health risks.



Up to 3 standard drinks
(equiv. to 30g pure alcohol)

Eg: You’re allowed up to THREE bottles of 330ml beer (each 330ml = 1 standard drink)

Up to 15 standard drinks
(equiv. to 150g pure alcohol)


Up to 2 standard drinks
(equiv. to 20g of pure alcohol)

Up to 10 standard drinks
(equiv. to 100g pure alcohol)



Up to 2 standard drinks
(equiv. to 20g pure alcohol)

Up to 14 standard drinks
(equiv. to 140g pure alcohol)


Up to 2 standard drinks
(equiv. to 20g pure alcohol)

Up to 14 standard drinks
(equiv. to 140g pure alcohol)

Women who are planning to become pregnant or who are already pregnant are advised not to drink alcohol.

At what point (at what amount) does alcohol start to negatively affect our health?

Each and every one of us metabolises alcohol differently. Some develop a quick tolerance to it and tend to increase this tolerance by drinking more frequently. While some of your friends may turn red or blush shortly after downing a quick drink or two. Those who are overweight might experience a greater tolerance compared to a thin person. Asians usually have a lower alcohol tolerance compared to their Caucasian counterparts. Men also have greater tolerance compared to women.

liver-cancerHowever despite these generalisations, there’s no exact point at which you’ll know that alcohol negatively impacts your health. That’s the scary truth! Alcoholics very seldom realise that their health is already in jeopardy and those who do, recognise it when it’s too late (internal organ damage has already set in).

When your healthcare provider asks you about your drinking history, he or she wants to know whether your drinking is significant enough to cause health problems. For example, according to the 19th edition of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, a significant alcohol intake is more than two standard drinks per day in women and more than three standard drinks per day in men for more than 10 years. Drinking more than this sets your liver up for a whole spectrum of liver diseases ranging from alcoholic liver disease to liver cirrhosis and ultimately liver cancer.

Alcohol and its Impact on Your Health

  • When it comes to your fitness or performance in sports, alcohol has both acute and chronic effects. Acutely, alcohol significantly affects your motor skills (any movements involving your muscles) and performance. On a chronic level, alcohol promotes muscle weakness and long-term damage. It decreases your strength, endurance and reaction time.

  • Alcohol also depresses your immune system and makes you susceptible to infectious diseases.

  • Chronic alcoholics neglect the nutritional value of food during drinking binges which leads to a multitude of nutrient deficiencies.

  • When it comes to sexual behaviour, alcohol can lower your inhibitions and lead to poor judgement. The results? Unplanned pregnancies, sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases and much more. For men, when you’ve had too much to drink, you may have problems getting it up or take too long to ejaculate. This can lead to frustration not just for the man, but also for his partner.

  • Alcohol is basically what experts call a downer. You feel a certain high while drinking and immediately after becoming intoxicated. But once the effect wears off, you feel an all-time low. Not to mention that hangover. Bummer!


Tips to Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

  • 1. Stick by your word. You say you’re a social drinker? Be one then. Have 1-2 standard drinks for the entire party and not 1-2 drinks per conversation! You can be the life of the party, WITHOUT intoxicating yourself. You’ll feel much better the next day too.

  • 2. Stay in control please. Don’t involve yourself in drinking rounds. Rounds increase your chances of overshooting your limit.

  • 3. Check that label. For once, take a look at the label to see how much alcohol is in your drink. Then start counting.

  • 4. Always go for the smaller sizes. Now, don’t get any funny ideas and try drinking tequila in multiple, consecutive shot glasses. This statement applies to beer. Order the 330ml bottle not that big handle or jug wise guy.

  • 5. Drink water in between drinks to rehydrate. You can also dilute your drinks.

  • mocktails6. Choose non-alcoholic alternatives such as mocktails (cocktails with all the frills but no alcohol)

A small amount of alcohol may be good for you. But don’t start drinking alcohol just because of this statement. The risks of drinking alcohol never outweigh the benefits. Don’t start what you really don’t need in the first place.

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