To Your Health: Moderate Alcohol Confers Some Benefits, Some Harms for Women's Health

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But the news on booze is not all good. Recent studies have found that even one drink a day raises a woman's risk of breast cancer. Experts also note that alcohol is liquid calories, and drinking too much contributes to weight gain and other factors of unhealthy lifestyles. And although alcoholism is diagnosed less frequently in women than in men, women are at higher risk because alcohol has a greater effect on their bodies.

Dr. Holly Thacker, director of the Center for Specialized Women's Health at the Cleveland Clinic, said women have a fine line to walk when it comes to drinking alcohol. And heavy drinking is never healthy.

"If someone enjoys social drinking, that's fine. But you shouldn't start drinking and change your lifestyle to get these benefits," she said. "We never would tell someone to drink to reduce their risk."

Advice on how much drinking is too much varies. In its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. government recommends that women should limit their alcohol consumption to one drink per day, but some doctors say the maximum can be two drinks. Some put the cap at three to five drinks each week, and others recommend that women should really limit their drinking to special occasions.

Dr. Donnica Moore, president of the Sapphire Women's Health Group, said research on how alcohol affects different chronic health problems is useful in learning more about those diseases, but ultimately, women shouldn't be too quick to apply those findings to their attempts to improve their health.

"Regardless of the studies that support or detract from health benefits, alcohol is not a medicine, and alcohol should not be used to confer medical benefits," Moore said.

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