1. Alcohol is one of the few legal vices left to the middle aged, but our relationship with it is conflicted. In our youth we went out and got drunk at the weekends but we couldn’t afford to do it every night of the week. Now, going out is too expensive, but alcohol from supermarkets is comparatively cheap, so wine o’clock is, increasingly, the highlight of our evening. Every evening.
2. According to figures from the 2013 Office for National Statistics, people between the ages of 45 and 65 are now more than twice as likely to drink alcohol every day of the week than the those in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s.
3. The most immediate problem with drinking every day is the calories. Two small glasses of wine contains 318 calories, which is the same as eating a hamburger in a bun. No wonder we’re all overweight!
4. How much is too much? According to the UK’s Drink Aware guidelines men should not regularly exceed 3 to 4 units a day and women should not regularly exceed two to three units a day, however the way you respond to alcohol is determined by other factors such as food intake, body weight and genetic factors.
5. Confusingly, a unit does not equate to one drink. For example, a 175ml glass of 13% proof wine is actually 2.3 units and a small bottle of 5% proof beer is 1.6 units. On that basis, a middle aged couple who split a bottle of wine of wine over dinner are both classed as binge drinkers… which is, let’s face it, ridiculous.
6. The good news is that alcohol in moderation does have some protective benefits. A meta-analysis that pooled data from a total of 25 studies examining the relationship between coronary heart disease and alcohol consumption found that the risk of death was reduced at all levels of alcohol consumption (English et al. 1995). Similarly, an analysis of data from a 9-year follow-up of 490,000 Americans in the Cancer Prevention Study II showed that, compared with abstainers, both men and women who consumed alcohol had a 30 to 40% lower risk of death from all cardiovascular diseases, with little relationship to the amount consumed (Thun et al. 1997).
7. An analysis of data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey indicated that both men and women had a reduced risk of heart disease only at lower levels of drinking. Their risk increased at drinking levels above five drinks per day for men and two drinks per day for women (Hanna et al. 1997). Another large U.S. survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I, found that, after an average of nearly 15 years of follow-up, the incidence of coronary heart disease in men who drank was lower across all levels of consumption than in nondrinkers. Incidence was reduced among women consuming low to moderate levels of alcohol, but increased in women consuming more than 28 drinks per week (Rehm et al. 1997).
8. Drinking wine may be marginally less detrimental than drinking beer, or spirits, because people tend to drink it in smaller amounts every day, rather than in large amounts on only one, or two days a week (Doll 1997, Grønboek et al. 1995; Klatsky and Armstrong 1993). Alcohol consumed with meals has also been found to reduce the high levels of blood lipids that occur after eating (Criqui and Ringel 1994; Veenstra et al. 1990).
9. One of upsides of drinking alcohol is reduced inhibition and this can lead to an increase in sexual behavior in both men and women (Crowe & George,1989). A study of the sexual activities of over 3,000 male and female adults aged 57-85 found that women who drink alcohol daily report more interest and pleasure in their sexual activity than their non-drinking counterparts. Moderate alcohol consumption increases the levels of the sex hormones testosterone and estradiol in women and this may explain why alcohol can cause an increased interest in sex in women. The downside is that intoxication has been found to reduce vaginal arousal, lubrication and extend the time it takes to achieve orgasm (Wilson & Lawson, 1978).
10. In men, dehydration as a result of drinking alcohol decreases blood volume and elevates levels of angiotensin, the hormone associated with erectile dysfunction. Long term drinkers may also experience loss of libido, shrinking of testes, reduction of the size of the penis, reduced sperm formation, loss of pubic and body hair and enlargement of the breasts.