Women and Alcohol: The fine line between healthful and harmful

BOSTON, MA –The fine line between alcohol's benefits and risks is even finer for women than it is for men. The December issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch points out specific concerns for women and offers suggestions about defining individual moderation.

Research has indicated two reasons why women are more sensitive to alcohol than men. First, women's bodies have a higher proportion of fat and a lower proportion of water, so alcohol is diluted less when they drink. Secondly, men's stomachs secrete additional amounts of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, what's considered moderate for men—two drinks per day—is the entry point to heavy drinking for women, increasing their risk for liver disease, alcoholism, heart and brain damage, pancreatic inflammation and various types of cancer.

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