There’s no denying it that alcohol over-consumption, binge drinking and alcoholism can have some devastating effects. Nonetheless, alcohol has become so normalized in our society that moderate drinking is considered normal. Now, a new comparison between binge and moderate drinking has raised the question. Is moderate drinking much worse for the body than many of us think?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism uses three tiers to identify the different drinking levels:
- Moderate consumption – up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
- Binge drinking – 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.
- Heavy alcohol use – binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
It is important to consider that “1 drink” equals to no more than 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine.
Binge drinking effects over 20% of the US population, according to a recent report published by the U.S. surgeon general. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (USDUH) estimates this to be even higher at 27%. Alcohol misuse in the U.S. contributes to over 88,000 deaths each year. Globally, deaths in 2012 attributed to alcohol consumption stacked up to 3.3 million.
The statistics are even more staggering when you consider USDUH’s estimate that 86% of people 18 or over who live in the U.S. consume alcohol. 56% of survey respondents reportedly drank within the last month.
How Harmful Is Moderate Consumption?
Statistics about alcohol misuse may be quite scary. But if you’re not a heavy or binge drinker, do you have to worry? New evidence suggests that even moderate alcohol consumption can be quite harmful.
In the BBC television segment below, doctors explored the difference between binge drinking and moderate drinking. Identical twin brothers each consumed 21 alcohol units. One brother drank 21 units in one night. The other had three drinks per day over the course of one week. The experiment continued for four weeks.
Doctors compared medical tests before and after the experiment. They discovered that moderate drinking was actually quite harmful to the body. Liver stiffness increased by about 25% for both the binge drinker and the moderate-drinking brother. This type of inflammation can lead to an irreversible condition called liver cirrhosis.
In addition to liver stiffness, the tests measured five different inflammatory markers in all. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer. Both brothers had significant increases in all markers, although the binge drinking twin had a more dramatic rise.
Effects of Alcohol on the Body