Women And Alcohol
She has a glass or two of wine and feels it go straight to her head. He has the same amount to drink and feels fine.
Researchers confirm something many women have always suspected - it takes less alcohol for a woman to feel tipsy than it does for a man, and it's not all to do with body size. Even if a woman is the same weight as a man and drinks the same amount of alcohol, she will end up with a blood alcohol level a third higher than his. It will also take a third longer for her body to eliminate the alcohol from her blood.
Why alcohol affects women more than men is one of a number of topics covered in a booklet "Women and Alcohol" which the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) has just published.
ALAC's Manager Communications Jennifer Harris says ALAC has aimed the booklet specifically at women because it believes it is important for women to have accurate information to help them make decisions about their drinking. "Alcohol affects women differently from men and it is potentially more harmful."
Alcohol affects women more than men because women have a higher proportion of body fat and less water in their bodies than men. This means that once it is in the bloodstream of a woman, the alcohol is not as diluted and has a stronger effect. "Even if you are the same size as some men, you will generally be affected more quickly than they are and feel the effects for much longer."
Both males and females have an enzyme in their stomach designed to process alcohol into a safer substance. Yet for reasons that are not yet clear to scientists, the enzyme - known as alcohol dehydrogenase - is 70-80 percent more effective in men than in women.
The booklet says that if the liver of a healthy young woman is compared with that of a healthy young man, it will generally take her liver longer to process one drink than his. "You start to feel drunk when you drink alcohol faster than your liver can process it."
Women's menstrual cycle can also affect how women respond to alcohol. Some women tend to drink more just before their menstrual period and they also feel the effects of alcohol more strongly than at other times, the booklet says.
About eight out of every ten women in New Zealand drink alcohol, ALAC says. New Zealand research has found more women are drinking and the amount of alcohol consumed by women is increasing. According to research, some 85 percent of women in New Zealand drink some alcohol each year. Ten percent of these women drink every day.
Young women are also drinking more, says Jennifer Harris. "What is particularly concerning is that a significant proportion of young women are adopting a pattern of drinking similar to their male counterparts - that is, consuming large amounts of alcohol in one go."
Other topics included in the booklet are alcohol and women's health, alcohol and sex, alcohol and pregnancy and alcohol and breastfeeding. There is also a guide to how much is too much and a section on getting help and advice.
Copies of "Women and Alcohol" are available free by phoning 0800 787 797. Or check out ALAC's website on www.alcohol.org.nz