Women are more vulnerable to alcohol’s long term effects on health

Published: October, 2008

Alcohol can be a boon or a bane for health. The difference lies in the dose—a little is good, a lot is bad. But the dividing line between a little and a lot differs from person to person. It depends on many things, including sex. Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol's long-term effects, reports the October 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Women break down alcohol more slowly than men do. If a woman and a man drink identical glasses of wine with the same meal, she will have a higher blood level of alcohol, and for a longer time. This means her tissues are exposed to more alcohol per drink than a man's. Results from a study in Japan suggest that too much alcohol is bad for a woman's heart and arteries, and earlier work shows it can be hazardous to breast tissue too.

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