If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation
Alcoholic beverages supply calories but few or no nutrients.
The alcohol in these beverages has effects that are harmful when consumed in
excess. These effects of alcohol may alter judgment and can lead to dependency
and a great many other serious health problems. Alcoholic beverages have been
used to enhance the enjoyment of meals by many societies throughout human
history. If adults choose to drink alcoholic beverages, they should consume them
only in moderation (box 16).
Current evidence suggests that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk
for coronary heart disease in some individuals. However, higher levels of
alcohol intake raise the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease,
certain cancers, accidents, violence, suicides, birth defects, and overall
mortality (deaths). Too much alcohol may cause 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 more nutritious foods.
Who should not drink?
Some people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all. These include:
- Children and adolescents.
- Individuals of any age who cannot restrict their drinking to moderate
levels. This is a special concern for recovering alcoholics and people whose
family members have alcohol problems.
- Women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant. Major birth defects,
including fetal alcohol syndrome, have been attributed to heavy drinking by the
mother while pregnant. While there is no conclusive evidence that an occasional
drink is harmful to the fetus or to the pregnant woman, a safe level of alcohol
intake during pregnancy has not been established.
- Individuals who plan to drive or take part in activities that require
attention or skill. Most people retain some alcohol in the blood up to 2-3 hours
after a single drink.
- Individuals using prescription and over-the-counter medications. Alcohol may
alter the effectiveness or toxicity of medicines. Also, some medications may
increase blood alcohol levels or increase the adverse effect of alcohol on the
ADVICE FOR TODAY
If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation, with meals, and when
consumption does not put you or others at risk.