Feb 25 On any given day in the United States, 18
percent of men and 11 percent of women drink more alcohol than
federal guidelines recommend, according to a study that also
found that 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women are
full-fledged "heavy drinkers."
That means the great majority of Americans stay within the
advised limit of two drinks a day for men and one for women,
according to the study that appeared in the Journal of the
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"And in fact, most adults don't drink at all on any given
day," said lead author Patricia Guenther, a nutritionist at the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Center for Nutrition
Policy and Promotion.
"But the fact remains that it is a significant public health
problem that many people do drink to excess."
Guenther said that 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 percent of men and 79 percent
of women said they drank no alcohol at all that day, and another
18 percent of men and 10 percent of women drank within the
Nine percent of men said they had three to four drinks the
day before and 8 percent of women said they drank two to three
alcoholic beverages, the researchers said.
The heaviest drinkers of all were the 8 percent of men who
had five or more drinks, and 3 percent of women who had four or
"Overall the study confirms that rates of unhealthy alcohol
use in the U.S. are significant," said Jennifer Mertens, a
research medical scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of
Research in Oakland, California, who was not part of the study.
Regularly drinking more than recommended levels is "linked
to increased alcohol-related problems," Mertens wrote in an
email to Reuters Health.
"Binge drinking (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-30-year-old age group had the most
heavy drinkers, at 22 percent. Ammonal women, the heaviest
drinkers - 12 percent - 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
"People need to be aware that there are people of all ages
who drink to excess," she told Reuters Health, adding that the
new study is also important because it may help people recognize
whether they themselves are drinking more than recommended.
"There are people who don't realize that they are drinking
more than what's beneficial to their health," she said.
(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health;
editing by Elaine Lies)