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True or False: Women Get Drunker Than Men
Evidence for the Health Claim
- Women have less water in their bodies than men do—water makes up 52% of a woman’s body, as compared to 61% of a man’s. Therefore, a man’s body can dilute more alcohol than a woman’s body can, and more alcohol will stay in a woman’s body (increasing BAC).
- Women tend to have a higher proportion of body fat than men of the same weight, and this affects how the body processes alcohol. Alcohol can’t be dissolved in fat, so more alcohol becomes concentrated in a woman’s body fluids (like blood), raising her BAC to a higher level than that of a man of similar weight who drinks the same amount of alcohol.
- Compared with men, women have less alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), an enzyme in the liver and stomach that breaks down alcohol. Because the alcohol in a woman’s body isn’t broken down as efficiently as in a man’s body, more alcohol enters a woman’s bloodstream and her BAC increases.
- Hormonal differences between men and women may also affect alcohol metabolism. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, changes in hormone levels affect the rate at which a woman becomes intoxicated. Alcohol metabolism slows down during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle (right before she gets her period), which causes more alcohol to enter the bloodstream and the woman to get drunker faster. Birth control pills and other medications with estrogen also slow the rate at which women process alcohol.
Evidence Against the Health Claim
Alcohol. Health Matters, Taft College website. Available at: http://www.taftcollege.edu/newtc/studentservices/health/alcohol.htm . Accessed November 7, 2008.
Alcohol. Princeton University website. Available at: http://www.princeton.edu/uhs/hi%5Falcohol.html . Accessed November 7, 2008.
Alcohol alert: alcohol metabolism. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa35.htm . Published January 1997. Accessed November 7, 2008.
Alcohol alert: are women more vulnerable to alcohol's effects? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa46.htm . Published December 1999. Accessed November 7, 2008.
Myths and facts about alcohol and other drugs. University of Michigan website. Available at: http://www.uhs.umich.edu/wellness/aod/mythandfacts.html#alcohol . Accessed August 3, 2006.
Sutker PB, Tabakoff B, Goist KC Jr, et al. Acute alcohol intoxication, mood states, and alcohol metabolism in women and men. Pharmacol Biochem Behav . 1983;18:349-354.
Image Credit: Nucleus Communications, Inc.