Alcohol: How Much is Too Much?

Consumer Reports looks at the benefits and the risks of drinking alcohol in moderation.

(Published Friday, Dec. 29, 2017)

With New Year's Eve just around the corner, there’s plenty of reason to celebrate with a cocktail or two. But how much is too much?

Many studies have found that alcohol in moderate amounts — one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men — is linked to lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiac-related problems.

Other research suggests moderate drinking may be linked to an elevated risk of breast cancer and, especially among smokers, of esophageal and mouth cancers.

One study even found that men who drank moderately had higher odds of a brain condition that could be a sign of early Alzheimer's.

So, how do you make sense of all of this? Most experts agree that even though it’s not totally without risk, one drink daily, two if you’re a man, is fine.

"Anything more and you should consider cutting back. And that means really sticking within the U.S. guidelines for moderation," said Julia Calderone, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

One drink has a standard pour depending on the kind of alcohol. For example, for wine it’s five ounces, for beer 12 ounces and for hard liquor an ounce and a half.

But make no mistake. Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to wine. Use a measuring cup or a shot glass to ensure you are pouring the right amount.

Sip water between drinks to help you slow down at those holiday office parties or family gatherings.

And here’s another thing to keep in mind: Consumer Reports says the potential benefits of drinking moderately are not so great that if you are a non-drinker, there’s no reason to start now.