The key physiological differences between men and women cause women to be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. See why.
Levels of blood alcohol content (BAC) differs around the time of a woman’s menstrual cycle as the body retains more fluid. On average women have between 10 and 15 percent more water content than men and during their period, water retention is even higher.
According to Professor Denis Viljoen, Chairperson of the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), the alcohol molecules can enter the brain within half an hour and when there are higher amounts of water in the body, the effects of alcohol are longer lasting.
“As women have higher levels of water in the body than men, they are already more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Coupled with increased or decreased water retention during different times of the menstrual cycle, women need to be even more aware of the amount of alcohol they consume,” says Viljoen.
Even though men and women may drink the same amounts of alcohol, a woman’s BAC will be much higher due to their bodies metabolising alcohol differently.
Other physiological differences include height, weight and the health effects.
Women metabolise alcohol slower than men as they have less Alcohol Dehydrogenase. This is a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.
It is a common fact that women are usually smaller and lighter than men, further concentrating alcohol in their blood. When a woman of average size consumes one drink, it will have almost the same effect as two drinks do for the average size man.
Women may drink less than men but still experience the same level of impairment.
Another physiological consideration women should be aware of is that they absorb up to 30% more alcohol into their bloodstream than men of the same height and weight who drink the same amount of alcohol.
Women can develop liver damage and other alcohol-related health problems more quickly than men, even though they may be drinking less.
In recent year, Botha recognises that women appear to be consuming larger quantities of alcohol and while they try to keep up with the same quantities of alcohol that men consume, they need to be even more aware of the long lasting effects, due to the basic physiological differences that exist.
The key is to know your personal limits when it comes to consuming alcohol, if you do choose to drink.
At the same time, you need to be aware of the numerous factors that could cause your personal limits to shift, including the physiological differences between men and women.
The ARA is an association comprising members that include the major manufacturers of alcohol beverages in South Africa, such as SAB Ltd, members of the SA Liquor Brandowners Association (which include Distell, Brandhouse and KWV amongst others), E Snell & Co Ltd, members of VinPro and members of Wine Cellars SA.