On any given day in the US, 18% of men and 11% of women
drink more alcohol than federal dietary guidelines recommend, according to a
new study that also finds 8% of men and 3% of women are full-fledged
That still means the great majority of Americans stay within
the advised limit of two drinks a day for men, and one for women."And in
fact, most adults don't drink at all on any given day.
But the fact remains that it is a significant public health
problem that many people do drink in excess," said Patricia Guenther, the
lead study author and a nutritionist at the US Department of Agriculture's
(USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
How the study was
Guenther said members of the committee that drafted the
current USDA guidelines on alcohol consumption wanted to know how many adults
exceeded the limits. She and her colleagues collected data from a nationally
representative survey on health and nutrition, which included about 5 400
adults over age 21.
Among other things, each was asked how much alcohol they
drank the previous day. The researchers found that 64% of men and 79% of women
said they drank no alcohol at all that day, and another 18% of men and 10% of
women drank within the recommended amounts.
Nine percent of men said they had three to four drinks the
day before and 8% of women said they drank two to three alcoholic beverages,
the researchers report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and
Men were the heaviest
The heaviest drinkers of all were the 8% of men who had five
or more drinks, and 3% of women who had four or more."Overall the study
confirms that rates of unhealthy alcohol use in the US are significant,"
said Jennifer Mertens, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of
Research in Oakland, who was not involved in the study.
more than recommended levels "is linked to increased alcohol-related problems,"
Mertens wrote in an email to Reuters Health.
(more than four drinks on any one day for men and more than three on any one
day for women and older adults) even one time can increase the risk of injury
from falls, motor vehicle accidents, and other accidents," she added. Among
men, the 31-to-50-year-old age group had the most heavy drinkers – 22%.
Among women, the
heaviest drinkers – 12% - were between 51 and 70 years old. Guenther said
that's important to note because it highlights that heavy drinking is not just
part of life among the college-age set."People need to be aware that there
are people of all ages who drink to excess," she told Reuters Health.
The US Preventive Services Task Force, a government-backed
advisory group, urges health care providers to screen all adults for risky
drinking behaviours. Guenther said her team's study is also important in that
it may help people recognise whether they themselves are drinking more than
recommended."There are people who don't realise that they are drinking
more than what's beneficial to their health," she said.