To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)
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Alcohol: Worse for Women

By Editorial Staff

More people are dying from alcohol consumption, which is disturbing in and of itself. Even more disturbing: Women are closing the gap when it comes to the gender breakdown. The possible explanation is also something that should raise eyebrows in terms of public awareness: Women are more likely to suffer the health effects of alcohol than men. Confused? We'll explain.

New research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, reveals that annual alcohol-related deaths for people ages 16 and older has more than doubled in the past several decades, accounting for nearly 36,000 deaths in 1999 versus 72,000-plus deaths in 2017. (By the way, the study also revealed that during the 1999-2017 study period, alcohol-related deaths approached the 1 million mark – another big cause for concern, regardless of gender.)

While middle-aged white men are the most likely to die from alcohol, the study shows that white women are closing the gap – troubling because, as we stated at the beginning, women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than men.

Now, here's why: According to the researchers, whose study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, women are at greater risk than men because "women reach higher blood alcohol levels than men of comparable weights after consuming the same amount of alcohol, [so] their body tissues are exposed to more alcohol and acetaldehyde, a toxic metabolite of alcohol, after each drink." As a result, say the researchers, women are more likely than men (even with equivalent levels of alcohol exposure; i.e., the same number / frequency of drinks) for "alcohol-related cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, alcohol-related liver disease and acute liver failure due to excessive drinking."