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Moderate drinking is probably best defined as the level of drinking that poses a low risk of alcohol-related problems, both for the drinker and for others. It is difficult to give a quantitative definition of moderate drinking because alcohol can have different effects on different individuals depending on age, size, sex and health. It also relates to when and how you consume alcohol as both the speed of consumption and drinking with food will affect the absorption of alcohol.

The US Government defines sensible drinking as

What is moderation?

The US Government explains in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 that, “The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects depending on the amount consumed, age and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol, and the specifics of the situation. This represents the official US nutrition policy.

The Guidelines emphasize moderation for those who choose to drink –defined as the consumption of up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

2 drinks (14g)
per day
1 drink (14g)
per day

5 fluid ounces of wine, 12 fluid ounces of regular beer, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits count as one drink for purposes of explaining moderation.

A Drink is defined as

5 fluid ounces of wine (100 calories)

12 fluid ounces of regular beer (150 calories)

1.5 fluid ounce (jigger) of 80-proof distilled spirits (100 calories)

Visit www.standarddrinks.com or www.whatisadrink.com or www.b4udrink.org for more information on the unit content of your favourite drinks

This definition of moderation is not intended as an average over several days but rather as the amount consumed on any single day.

Generally, those adults who choose to drink should do so in a sensible manner as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle and preferably around mealtime or with food.

The Bottom Line Message

Most people, who drink, do so moderately and responsibly as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Common sense tells us to drink responsibly at any time and especially if you are planning to drive or undertake other activities that require skills. When people talk about the lifestyle benefits of alcoholic beverages, they’re usually referring to the pleasant, relaxed feeling and enhanced sociability that often results from drinking. When scientists and health professionals talk about the benefits of alcohol use, however, they are primarily referring to the fact that moderate drinking may reduce the risk of certain diseases, especially coronary heart disease in men over 40 and post-menopausal women.

Alcohol can be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle in moderation, but as the USDA guidelines say "It is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of health". Enjoyment of wine, beer and spirits has formed a pleasurable part of many traditions, cultures and some religions around the globe since civilisation began.

Key Recommendations on Alcohol in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

For more Government information click the logo

To view a table of International responsible drinking guidelines click here

What If I Drink Too Much ?

The hazards of heavy alcohol consumption are well known and the Dietary Guidelines discuss the pros and cons of drinking with an emphasis that anything above the moderate levels can increase the risk for "motor vehicle accidents, other injuries, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, some types of cancer and suicide".

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explained on a special 2004 report that "the consequences of alcohol use must be evaluated in conjunction with its potential benefits" and "Protective and detrimental levels of alcohol consumption cannot be generalized across the population, but instead should be determined by individuals in consultation with her or his physician".

This is why individuals should consult their healthcare provider on any questions with respect to the consumption of wine, beer and spirits

The Potential Lifestyle Benefits of Moderation

The Dietary Guidelines explain that Alcohol may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation and the Guidelines’ closing paragraph also acknowledges, Moderate alcohol consumption may have beneficial health effects in some individuals. In middle-aged and older adults, a daily intake of one to two alcoholic beverages per day is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality. More specifically, compared to non-drinkers, adults who consume one to two alcoholic beverages a day appear to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease. In contrast, among younger adults alcohol consumption appears to provide little, if any, health benefit, and alcohol use among young adults is associated with a higher risk of traumatic injury and death.

The Guidelines acknowledge potential risk reductions for all-cause mortality but cautions that for young people there may be more risks than benefits.

In addition, the Guidelines emphasize the "healthy lifestyle" choices of regular exercise, not smoking, staying slim, and a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat. If you can manage this and enjoy drinking in moderation, your risk of chronic diseases reduce by more than 50%.

Please visit the diet and lifestyle section of the website for more information via: http://www.drinkingandyou.com/site/eatwise/eatwise.htm

Message in the US Government’s Consumer Brochure,” Finding Your Way to a Healthier You”:

“If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Moderate drinking means up to 1 drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks for men. Twelve ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 11/2 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits count as a drink for purposes of explaining moderation. Remember that alcoholic beverages have calories but are low in nutritional value.

Generally, anything more than moderate drinking can be harmful to your health. And some people, or people in certain situations, shouldn’t drink at all. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.”

Review full text at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines

What Do Americans Drink?

The Dietary Guidelines explain, “In 2002, 50% of US adults were current regular drinkers. 36% of US adults do not drink any alcohol at all. Abstention is an important option. Fewer Americans consume alcohol today as compared to 50 to 100 years ago.” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism publishes extensive health and social issues related research on moderation and writes,” 60% are occasional to moderate drinkers and about 5 to 7% are diagnosable with alcohol abuse and dependence.

More information sources:
Important Authoritative Links:
AIM encourages healthcare providers and consumers to review the following sites for further information

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010:
REPORT: http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/index.html
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: U.S. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/executivesummary.htm
CONSUMER BROCHURE: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/pdf/brochure.pdf
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/faqs.htm

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Health and Social Issues Research Information:
GENERAL: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/publications.htm
RESEARCH DATABASE: http://www.healthfinder.gov/
Other Public Health Resources:
National Library of Medicine: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/
American Heart Association: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1045
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PRO/content/PRO_1_1x_Alcohol.pdf.asp?sitearea=PRO
American Academy of Family Physicians: http://www.aafp.org/
American Medical Association: http://www.ama-assn.org/
American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp
American Stroke Association: http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=HOME
What does it mean?
Sensible drinking means drinking enjoyably, sociably and responsibly. It includes not drinking at all in situations when the effects of alcohol will put someone's safety or health at risk.

It also means being aware of the risks to young people of drinking alcohol and setting an example of moderation.

Pliny the Elder
'Nothing is more useful than wine for strengthening the body and also more detrimental to our pleasure if moderation be lacking'

© 2000 Alcohol in Moderation