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When it comes to drinking, what is moderation?

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By Thomas Biuso, M.D.
Senior Medical Director, United Healthcare of New Mexico

A glass of wine with dinner, a few beers with work friends – drinking is not going to hurt you unless you overdo it. Right?

It’s hard to say. New research shows even moderate alcohol use may have serious health outcomes.

One recent study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed the correlation moderate drinking has with risk of death and also the potential for developing cancer. Researchers found the risk of death increased for those who consumed one to five drinks per week. The study also found consuming five to seven drinks per week increased risk of cancer by 10 percent.

This study highlights the potential health risks associated with drinking, even when alcohol consumption falls within the guidelines set by the U.S. government. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion considers safe consumption to be up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.

So, what counts as a “drink”? It depends on what’s in your glass, can or bottle. A small shot of spirits, a 12-ounce beer and 5 ounces of wine are each considered one drink. The graphic to the right can be a helpful guide.


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