Alcohol in any amount can be dangerous to anyone but it affects women more than men, with increased health risks like liver and heart diseases and infertility for them, according to experts.
According to Monika Jain, a senior hepatologist with Fortis Hospital, “the female physiology is such that it allows for greater toxicity with lesser amounts of alcohol and in lesser time, as compared to males.”
“A woman’s body doesn’t break down the alcohol as quickly as a man’s body does. This results in greater levels of alcohol in blood, resulting in greater toxicity,” Jain told IANS.
“The enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) which breaks down the alcohol in stomach is produced in smaller quantities in women resulting in slower action as compared to men,” Jain added.
According to a publication by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA), women who drink heavily face greater health risks than men who drink heavily, with women alcoholics being more prone to liver disease, heart damage and brain damage.
Amongst the other problems, the report claims, chronic heavy drinking can lead to menstrual problems, infertility, and early menopause while drinking during adolescence can interfere with puberty, growth, and bone health.
But the most vulnerable are the pregnant women who drink because in their case, even the unborn child is at risk from alcohol, which is a teratogen, a substance that can harm a foetus.
“Alcohol consumption by pregnant women can induce problems like Fetal Alcohol Disorder(FAD) and Abruption,” Shivani Gour, a gynecologist and director of Isis hospital, told IANS.
“FAD is a major problem with ill-effects ranging from mental retardation to delayed physical growth. Any amount of alcohol consumed by an expecting mother is enough to harm the unborn child. And then there is abruption, which means premature detachment of the placenta,” she added.
“The women are more vulnerable to alcohol because of increased percentage of fat as well as estrogen, which delays alcohol breakdown and increases alcohol toxicity in women,” said Gour.
However, the damage is not just physical.
Beyond the physiological ill-effects, the NIAAA report claims heavy drinking can make a woman more vulnerable to violence, including sexual assault and they are twice as likely as men to die from alcohol-related causes such as suicide, accidents, and illnesses.