As if periods and childbirth weren’t unfair enough (why can’t men lug those babies around themselves?), it turns out that women are also plagued with a lower tolerance for liquor than our male counterparts, so drinking alcohol is worse for us. If you’re the type to reach for that second or third glass of wine at dinner or challenge your guy pals to a shot-for-shot tequila challenge at the bar, this is not good news. And the scariest part is that alcohol can lead to some nasty conditions that seriously jeopardize your health and happiness. It’s not fair, but it truly is important for us gals to ease up on the booze and drink less than our men.
When a team of German researchers at the University of Heidelberg analyzed brain scans of more than 150 subjects, they found that heavy drinkers of both sexes suffered brain loss or atrophy, and displayed less grey matter overall than light or non-drinkers. Although the damage was similar for men and women, it appeared that the women’s brains shrunk at a faster rate than the men’s brains—so apparently, men can get away with longer periods of heavy drinking with less damage. Women were also more likely to experience heart disease, liver problems and depression after a shorter time of drinking. What’s more, women seem to grow addicted to alcohol more quickly than men. This makes us more prone to heavy drinking in the long run, and therefore more vulnerable to alcohol-related medical problems. On the plus side, women were found to start drinking later in life than men, and to drink less than males as a group.
As if the threat of cirrhosis and brain loss weren’t bad enough, alcohol also robs women of sleep more easily than men, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Researchers observed 93 young men and women in a sleep lab, serving them vodka or whiskey cocktails until blood-alcohol levels reached .1—more than enough to fail a breathalyzer test. Then, participants in this study/coed mixer went to bed for eight hours. Those lucky dudes slept as well as if they hadn’t drank a sip of alcohol. The women, however, woke up more often and slept about 20 minutes less than when served a placebo cocktail.
While lack of sleep may seem like more of an annoyance than anything else, serious repercussions can occur with inadequate rest. According to Harvard Medical School, missing your shuteye can lead to weight gain, weakened immune system, increased risk of heart disease and even a shorter life span.
So what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, booze is not completely off limits for most women—but we need to show some restraint. The National Institutes of Health recommends no more than one drink per day for us ladies, which equals a 5-ounce glass of vino, a 12-ounce beer or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. As vindication, men don’t have a free pass to guzzle either. The NIH recommends no more than two drinks per day for the hairier sex—not exactly serious partying.