What is Moderate Drinking or Alcohol Consumption?

What is sensible or moderate drinking? It depends on whom you ask. The U.S. government defines moderte drinking as consuming no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women. And even that has changed. Until recently, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s definition permitted men to drink up to four drinks on a day and still be considered moderate drinkers. 1

A drink in the U.S. is a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink). Each contains the same amount of alcohol -- six-tenths of an ounce and they are all the same to a Breathalyzer. 2

Other countries have different definitions of moderate drinking in terms of daily consumption as seen in this graph. 3

Graph: Standard Drinks for Women and Men in different countries

Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers do. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer's disease and the common cold. Sensible drinking also appears to be beneficial in reducing or preventing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney stones, digestive ailments, stress and depression, poor cognition and memory, Parkinson's disease, hepatitis A, pancreatic cancer, macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), angina pectoris, duodenal ulcer, erectile dysfunction, hearing loss, gallstones, liver disease and poor physical condition in elderly. 4

Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence

Learn what they are and why they'’re very important.

The risk of dying in any given year is 25 percent lower for those who consume moderate amounts of alcohol. 5

This web site does not provide medical opinion or advice and none should be inferred. Obtain all medical assistance from a physician or other qualified health care provider.


  • 1. International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP). International Drinking Guidelines. (ICAP Reports #14). December 2000, p. 8 and current issue of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Physicians’ Guide to Helping Patients with Alcohol Problems.
  • 2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism web site.
  • 3. International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP). International Drinking Guidelines. (ICAP Reports #14). December 2003.
  • 4. Alcohol and Health (https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/alcohol-and-health-medical-findings)
  • 5. Drinking Alcohol in Moderation & Better Health, Longer Life (https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/HealthIssues/1107279468.html)

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