Traditional recipes

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

Tips for calculating how many bottles of wine to have on hand when entertaining

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Wine

As the hostess of the Ted and Amy Supper Club, I’ve served dinner to several hundred people over the past few years. And in that time I’ve noticed something… people are thirsty.

Wine and often cocktails have been an integral part of my dinners. Something about getting a drink in their hands seems to relax them, even if they don’t end up drinking that much. It also makes the mingling a little easier — especially important since many of the guests are walking into a home full of complete strangers.

How much?

When I serve only wine at dinner parties, I calculate one bottle per person, on average. These drinks are stretched over four hours and usually over four courses. If I’m serving cocktails before dinner, too, I plan for one 750 milliliter bottle of liquor for a party of 14, and then eight bottles of wine. If it’s a weekend dinner party, people tend to linger later in the night. So I would recommend having another bottle or two on hand. Running out of wine at the end of a long dinner is OK… sometimes it’s a subtle cue for guests to leave. But running out early is definitely a party killer.

Buy in bulk

For purchasing wine for large dinner parties, buying by the case is a smart option since that’s where you can find the discounts, usually 10% off a case, and sometimes they will let you mix and match the bottles (or buy a single case for a deeper discount). In New York City, where I live, I frequent Astor Wines which has a fabulous selection of wines at a variety of price points, as well as a staff that is eager to help you pair wines with your menu and your budget. Costco offers a great selection of wines at some stores, while some smaller discount retailers like BevMax ship nationwide. (Photo courtesy of Kara Masi)

Click here to see the Currant Hustle Cocktail recipe.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.


How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

F or decades, there&rsquos been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there&rsquos another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women&rsquos Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

&ldquoA little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,&rdquo says Solomon. &ldquoOnce you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.&rdquo

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart&rsquos structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn&rsquot clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women&rsquos heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it&rsquos not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

&ldquoWhat is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it&rsquos likely to be even lower than that,&rdquo says Solomon.