The ability to track your alcohol-related risk depends largely on your ability to accurately track your alcohol serving sizes. However, not all people are aware of what constitutes an alcohol serving or know how many daily or weekly servings increase their exposure to drinking problems.
In a study published in August 2014 in the International Journal of Drug Policy, researchers from two U.S. universities assessed the impact that a basic measurement of body fat levels called body mass index (BMI) has on the chances that a server will increase the amount of alcohol contained in your drinks.
Alcohol Serving Sizes
All alcoholic beverages contain the active ingredient ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol. In the U.S., a standard alcohol serving or “drink” contains 0.6 ounces of this substance. Since different forms of alcohol have their own typical ethyl alcohol content, the size of a standard drink varies accordingly.
For example, the serving size for beer and wine coolers (the weakest popular alcoholic beverages) is 12 ounces. Malt liquor has a serving size of 8 ounces or 9 ounces (depending on the manufacturer), while most wines have a serving size of 5 ounces. Hard liquor (the most potent form of alcoholic beverage) has a serving size of just 1.5 ounces when distilled to a strength of 80 proof. Distilled liquors with a higher proof have an even smaller serving size.
Regardless of the type of alcohol you consume, your risks for developing alcohol use disorder (alcoholism/alcohol abuse) rise if you consume alcohol above moderate levels of intake at least once a month. For men, the upper limit of moderate drinking is four alcohol servings per day or 14 alcohol servings per week. Women have an upper limit of three alcohol servings per day or seven alcohol servings per week.
Consumption of enough alcohol to get drunk in a couple of hours (i.e. binge drinking) sharply increases your risks for a range of serious, potentially fatal short-term risks, including accidents and alcohol poisoning. Men typically require at least five alcohol servings to reach the binging threshold, while women typically require at least four servings.
Body mass index is a relatively easy way of measuring your body fat levels. In essence, the index compares your body weight to your height and uses the result of this comparison to classify you as underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. People who qualify as overweight or obese usually have substantially increased risks for developing a host of chronic health problems, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
A BMI result is not a diagnosis. However, it does provide important information on the problems likely to damage your health over extended periods of time.
BMI and Alcohol Servings
In the study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, researchers from Iowa State University and Cornell University used a project involving young-adult alcohol consumers to determine if a person’s BMI level has an impact on how much alcohol he or she will be served in various settings. The researchers also examined the potential connection between BMI scores, alcohol serving sizes and gender. In addition, they assessed the impact of an easily repeated estimation of serving size on the amount of alcohol consumed. The type of alcohol used during the study was wine.
After reviewing their results, the researchers concluded that BMI and gender both play a role in the chances that a young adult will receive on oversized serving of alcohol. Specifically, they found that men with a high BMI level tend to receive larger alcohol servings; conversely serving sizes for women do not typically vary according to BMI scores. The serving size estimation used during the study was a half-glass of wine.
The researchers concluded that when people who serve alcohol stick to this easily remembered measurement standard, the amount of alcohol served to both men and women drops by more than 20 percent. This finding applies equally to men with a high BMI score who normally receive larger-than-average wine servings.
The study’s authors believe that their findings indicate a clear need to take perceived body size into account when serving alcohol to men. They note that the half-glass measurement standard leads to an overall reduction in alcohol serving sizes even when the size of the wine glasses in use varies from situation to situation.
By: Gideon Hoyle