An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what about a beer a day? Or for that matter, a glass of wine or even a shot of hard liquor?
It's well-established that drinking too much, even every once in a while, is bad for you, but there's often uncertainty regarding how moderate drinking affects health. There are some negatives, and some positives, so decisions about whether to drink really depend on people's individual situations, said Dr. Sam Zakhari, the director of the metabolism and health effects at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
But first, establishing what "moderate drinking" means is key for anyone looking for health benefits associated with alcohol, Zakhari said. For men, moderation means no more than two drinks a day, while for women, moderation means no more than one drink a day. Zakhari emphasized that drinking seven drinks in one day, and not drinking the rest of the week, will have dramatically worse effects on health, even though it averages to the same levels of consumption.
According to Dr. Robert Gish, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, moderate levels can be a bit higher daily, at one and a half drinks for women and two to three drinks daily for men. But it's important to take a couple days off each week from drinking at all, Gish said.
Even though drinking at moderate levels has some benefits, as soon as people start drinking more than the recommended amounts, benefits diminish quickly, and problems arise, Gish said.
"If you tell people they can have a drink, or a drink and a half a day, they tend to overconsume," Gish said.
Zakhari noted that one drink is equal to one bottle of beer, one glass of wine or one shot of liquor. Drinking a large glass of wine counts as two drinks, not one. But, he added, because the benefit is from the alcohol itself, positive results can come from habitual, moderate consumption of any of these types of alcohol.
"A drink is a drink is a drink," he said.
Here are some of the health effects of moderate drinking — there are some benefits, but also some harms.