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College women more likely than men to exceed alcohol consumption guideline limit

According to a recent study, college women are more likely than college men to go overboard when it comes to alcohol consumption.  The researchers used the guidelines laid out by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as the basis for their conclusion about the college women drinkers.

It is recommended by the NIAAA guideline that men do not drink more than 4 drinks a day, and no more than 14 per week.  For women, the limit is 3 drinks per day, and no more than 7 in a week.  It is important to note that the guideline suggests consuming less alcoholic beverages for women because the physiological differences between genders must be taken into account when considering the tolerance thresholds of abusive substances.  For instance, men have more gastric dehydrogenase in their stomach to reduce the uptake of alcohol by the bloodstream.

“It is always important to take gender into account when studying health or risk behaviors,” said Melissa Lewis, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at the University of Washington. “Even if you hold weight constant, there are differences in terms of how alcohol affects men and women. For example, men have more of an enzyme in the stomach – a gastric alcohol dehydrogenase – that lowers the amount of alcohol that makes it into the bloodstream. Also, women have less blood going through the bloodstream than a man at the same weight, so alcohol gets more concentrated in the bloodstream.”

In the study, the researchers surveyed 992 college students (575 females and 417 males), biweekly, on their daily drinking habits through web-based forms.  Through data gathered by the team thus far, they have found that female drinkers tend to exceed the guideline, which is indicating that college women are more prone to alcoholism and perhaps health degradation later on in life than men.

“We found that female college student drinkers exceeded national drinking guidelines for weekly drinking more frequently than their male counterparts,” said Bettina Hoeppner, a corresponding author of the study as well as an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.  “Weekly cut-offs are recommended to prevent long-term harmful effects due to alcohol, such as liver disease and breast cancer.  By exceeding weekly limits more often than men, women are putting themselves at increased risk for experiencing such long-term effects.”

Furthermore, the researchers also claim that their findings indicated that men’s weekly drinking declined over time, whereas, women’s did not. 

“This finding is concerning.  If women continue to exceed weekly drinking recommendations over time, it puts them at greater risk for health issues, such as liver or heart disease and certain forms of cancer,” added Lewis.

Still, there are factors in this study that need further analysis before we can come to the conclusion that college women are more at risk to developing health problems in the long run due to the consumption of alcohol.  For example, alcohol content varies from drink to drink, and this alone can provide additional insights as to why the study has indicated that women tend to exceed their limit.

The full study and its results, however, will be published this October in an issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Source: wiley via medicalxpress

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