Now I don’t feel so stupid. According to Rene Steinke’s “Women on the Rocks,” an article in the October 2006 issue of Oprah Magazine (sorry, I couldn't find the article online), it turns out that alcohol has seriously worse effects on women than on men (way beyond causing us to sleep with the wrong person). Steinke writes that in the U.S,
one out of five women between 18 and 44 is said to be a binger (more than three drinks per occasion) which is particularly disturbing because health experts are finding that alcohol takes a harsher toll on women than men; even relatively small amounts can cause damage.
Notice the definition of “binger?” I think a lot of women drink at least three drinks at a time and do so frequently. To challenge the safety of that practice is to seriously criticize one of our favorite past-times.
Steinke also reports that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that,
compared with men, women become addicted to alcohol more quickly. It also takes lower amounts of alcohol and shorter periods of time to cause heart and liver damage in women. Alchohol weakens our immune systems and raises our risk of breast cancer. Even our hangovers are worse than men’s.
Apparently whatever the benefits of red wine or of relaxing and releasing stress, drinking more than one drink a day does women more harm than good. It increases the risk of heart disease and cancer and can increase our susceptibility to diseases we might otherwise fight off.
I’ve been so disgusted at my inability to develop a taste for alcohol and understand what is so appealing about getting buzzed or tanked. Now my puerile taste buds seem to be the good guys, keeping me from wasting time in bars and endangering my health (not to mention keeping me from sleeping with the wrong person). Steinke also mentions that one drink a day is actually too much for certain women, specifically ones who are pregnant, depressed, predisposed to alcoholism or on certain medications. I think I fit into the second and fourth categories.
Also, since the reason alcohol has stronger effects on women than men is our bodies’ higher fat percentage and lower water content, alcohol is even worse for women past menopause than younger women (older women are fatter and have even less water content). So I really better not start trying to drink now. My window of binge-drinking opportunity is CLOSED.
I guess it all comes down to a truth that even the biggest advocates of drinking have to admit: alcohol is not a health food. Even for men, drinking more than the most moderate amounts has a toxic effect on the body. You can’t argue against that.
Finally, a clear reason for me to say NO, although citing the increased health risks of alcohol on women sure won't win me any friends...