How much alcohol in your drink? - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

How much alcohol in your drink? Stronger beverages make it tough to tell

Updated: Oct 15, 2013 02:22 PM
© iStockphoto.com / Gene Krebs © iStockphoto.com / Gene Krebs

By Brenda Goodman
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Thanks to rising alcohol levels in wine and beer, the drinks served in bars and restaurants are often more potent than people realize, a new report shows.

As a result, even conscientious drinkers who stick to a strict one- or two-drink limit could easily find themselves beyond the legal limit for driving or accidentally consuming more alcohol than they want to for good health.

The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association released the new report online Tuesday.

The USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans say people who drink should do so in moderation, which means one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

The guidelines define a "drink" as 12 ounces of regular beer with 5 percent alcohol, 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, which are 40 percent alcohol by volume.

Those reference sizes should shrink as the alcohol content of drinks goes up, but that often doesn't happen, said report author William Kerr, a senior scientist with the Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville, Calif.

"A lot of the wines now are 14 percent or even 15 percent commonly, and the standard 5-ounce glass of wine doesn't apply to that level," Kerr said. "Really a 4-ounce glass is more appropriate."

"And we've learned from our studies of bars and restaurants that the average glass is a little bit over 6 ounces," he said.

As a result, one glass of wine may actually contain about 50 percent more alcohol than a person had bargained for.

Beer drinkers may find themselves in the same boat. A 12-ounce bottle of Bud Light beer has 4.2 percent alcohol, but the same-size bottle of Bud Light Platinum has 6 percent alcohol by volume, a nearly 50 percent increase.

"If people are thinking, 'I can have two beers a day and that's a healthy amount,' that's different if the amount is 9 percent versus 5 percent alcohol," said Dr. Gerard Moeller, director of addiction medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, in Richmond.

It also matters whether you're drinking a standard 12-ounce bottle, or downing draft beer in pints, which are 16 ounces each.

Flavored malt beverages and newer flavored beers are muddying the waters even further, the report showed. These drinks, which include brands such as Bacardi Silver, Smirnoff Ice, Mike's Hard Lemonade and Four Loko, range from 5 percent to 12 percent alcohol.

Some of the more controversial varieties, like Colt 45's fruit-flavored Blast, which is 12 percent alcohol, are not only more potent, but also packaged in 23.5-ounce cans, making one container the equivalent of an entire bottle of a similarly strong wine.

Taken together, these examples suggest that Americans need better guidance about healthy drinking, said Robert Pandina, director of the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, in Piscataway, N.J.

"The dietary guidelines aren't very useful," said Pandina, who was not involved in the report. "They don't parallel the drinking habits of the American public."

So what can you do if you're trying to moderate the amount of alcohol you drink?

In some situations, careful label reading and measuring will help ensure you don't overdo it.

"For home drinks, you should know what you're drinking," report author Kerr said. "You don't have to measure every time, but if you're going to be drinking out of the same wine glass, measure a couple of times so you know what a standard drink looks like."

"[At bars and restaurants], you should assume that poured drinks are more like one-and-a-half standard drinks" and maybe even more for mixed cocktails such as martinis and Long Island iced teas, he said.

If you're ordering beer, a little homework ahead of time can help you find out how strong your preferred brand is.

Then the trick is sticking to the limit you set for yourself.

"There's an old Native American expression, 'A man takes a drink. A drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes the man," Pandina said. The more you've had to drink, the easier it is to lose track of how much you've had.

Once you've hit your max, switch to water or something nonalcoholic to make sure you stay in control.

More information

For more about standard drink sizes, visit the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Migraine Relief: Stopping Pain & Relieving Pressure

    Migraine Relief: Stopping Pain & Relieving Pressure

    Friday, April 18 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-18 21:15:06 GMT
    Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.more>>
    Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.more>>
  • Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Thursday, April 17 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-17 21:15:09 GMT
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure, but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms.more>>
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure for SMA but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms, it targets mutated SMN genes, which are responsible for SMA.more>>
  • Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-16 21:15:09 GMT
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.