healthy drinking limits

Oh come on, people

Have you ever seen one of those commercials for comically unhealthy cereal (chocolate frosted sugar bombs, or something along those lines)? They surround the cereal box with oranges, bananas, and whole wheat toast in order to claim that it’s “part of a balanced breakfast.”

That’s what immediately came to mind when we saw this article about new beers that are being marketed as healthy drinks for athletes.

Here’s the basic story:

  1. There are some new health beers on the scene, including 26.2 brew (yes, that’s the marathon distance), Fastest Known Time (yes, that is the name of a beer), and Rec League.

  2. They don’t claim alcohol is healthy, but they add stuff to their beers that is healthy, so that health-conscious people might prefer their beers.

  3. Stuff = things like Himalayan or Mediterranean sea salt to replenish electrolytes, fruits like black currants for Vitamin C, and chia seeds for fiber.

Bottom line: if health is your goal, have a fruit and chia-seed smoothie. Come on, people.

If you’ve decided to quit or cut back on your drinking, we’d love to help. Try the app free for a week to see if you find the exercises, tracking, insights, and group support helpful, and then we hope you join as a member! 3 in 4 are sticking to their weekly drinking limits.


Alcohol and your heart round 2

We’ve posted previously about how past research saying moderate drinking was GOOD for your heart was highly suspect - either probably sponsored by the alcohol industry or likely exaggerated beyond its deserved credibility level because people want to see headlines that support their current habits.

That’s why we were happy to see this WebMD blog post come through our inbox.

The long and short of it was:

  1. New research shows that even moderate drinking is risky for your heart health (doubling risk of stage 2 hypertension and increasing high blood pressure risk by over 50%).

  2. According to a closer review of the famous Lancet study (the one that said basically “the safest level of drinking is none”), health risks begin to show up at about 1 drink a day, and there are no clear health benefits to drinking at all.

Now, we see this (alcohol messes with heart health) as another factor to take into account when making your own lifestyle decisions. It’s hard to be perfectly observant of all health rules all the time. Cheese pizza is delicious, but dairy isn’t good for you; chocolate cake is heaven, but sugar is bad for you.

If you’re going to drink moderately, do it with your eyes open as to the risks.

If you’ve decided to quit or cut back on your drinking, we’d love to help. Try the app free for a week to see if you find the exercises, tracking, insights, and group support helpful, and then we hope you join as a member! 3 in 4 are sticking to their weekly drinking limits.


TL;DR: Drinking and smoking: the health risks

We’ve posted before about the health issues associated with moderate drinking.

We think it’s an important topic to cover because while we think moderate drinking is a perfectly reasonable goal, it’s still not as good health-wise as no drinking at all. It’s like chocolate cake in that way. A lot is really bad; none at all is best; just a bit is in the middle, but can be easier to achieve.

But this study of historical data highlighted the cancer risks associated with moderate drinking. See the full article for more details, but here’s what we learned:

  1. According to the research, drinking at the moderate drinking limits for women (7 a week) translated to about 10 cigarettes a week in terms of cancer risk.

  2. That sounds alarming, but the actual percentage point increase in lifetime cancer risk is only 1%-1.4%.

  3. The study didn’t take into account some other risk factors for cancer among the population.

Read the article and decide for yourself if moderate drinking or sobriety is for you - it’s important to make an informed decision either way!

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Download the Drinker’s Helper app today!


Health risks of even moderate drinking

While most studies agree heavy drinkers are in for it, health-wise, we’re sure you’ve also seen headlines purporting to prove that drinking actually protects the heart (typically, those claims revolve specifically around red wine). Sometimes, these studies showing health benefits from moderate drinking don’t correct for other variables that could explain health differences between non-drinkers and moderate drinkers.

A new study has attempted to correct for some of these variables (age, sex, body mass index, etc.), and found drinking just 7 to 13 drinks a week (within moderation limits recommended by the NIAAA) can increase risk of stage 1 hypertension by 1.5 times. See the full article here.

In Drinker’s Helper, we do support moderation as a goal for those who are concerned about their level of drinking and possible addiction to alcohol. But that endorsement of moderation comes with acknowledging that any drinking at all does have health risks.

Think of it like a sugar addiction. Moderating your sugar intake is good, and probably means you’re beating the addiction, but quitting entirely would be better for your long term health.

Just sharing what we’ve learned! If you’re looking to cut back on drinking, or ultimately looking to quit, try out Drinker’s Helper today!


How you can track your progress in Drinker's Helper

When quitting or cutting back on drinking, it’s important to set goals and track your progress.

Many apps offer helpful trackers for the purpose of counting days of sobriety. Drinker’s Helper is a little different, primarily because we also support people who are trying to cut back on drinking, in addition to those who quit entirely.

Here’s how we help people quit or cut back with Tracking & Insights.

We help people set and track drinking against their limits:

  1. We guide people to set daily and weekly drinking limits that are in line with what the NIAAA recommends as a healthy drinking limit. Only 2 in 100 people who observe these limits have an alcohol use disorder, according to their research. People can also set a limit of zero, of course, if their goal is total sobriety!

  2. When people track their drinks, they can see whether they are on track or not for the week vs. their goals. If someone has a heavy drinking day, for example, they might be off track for the week, but can catch up if they stay sober the rest of the week.

We help people motivate themselves with signs of progress:

  1. We help people see their streaks over time (how long they’ve stayed within their limits). This is one of the most important ways people can motivate themselves in the app. We let them know when their streak has gotten longer.

  2. People can also set a pledge in the app to stay sober for a certain number of days. This is one way to motivate themselves to complete a short-term stint of sobriety. They can be anywhere from a single day to a full year. We believe this can be one of the best ways to start out using the app!

  3. We also help people compare their progress to others using the app. That way they have a better sense of whether they’re checking in often enough, or doing enough exercises, compared to the community.

We help people understand why they’re drinking:

  1. Our insights give people a better sense of why they’re drinking. When people track a drink, they also track where they were, who they were with, and more. Then they can see over time what their top drinking situations are. It helps people to discover their triggers, so they can plan to deal with them. This helped us out a ton when we were first using the app ourselves.

  2. Finally, we also help people track urges to drink. It’s important to be able to track what gives you urges to drink, even if you don’t give in. This helps you get an even better sense of what triggers make you want a drink.


What is moderate drinking?

We often toss around the phrase ‘moderate your drinking,’ but what do we actually mean? After all, your Irish uncle might have his own definition…

By ‘moderate drinking,’ we mean the “low risk drinking” recommendation of the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is:

  • For men: 4 per day, 14 per week

  • For women: 3 per day, 7 per week (yes, fellow ladies, more proof that life simply isn’t fair)

This is considered low risk because very few (less than 2%) of those who drink at this level develop an AUD (alcohol use disorder).

Note: Different governments and research institutions have slightly different recommendations. The NIH in the UK, for example, says no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for both genders (that translates to about 6 drinks).

You’ll probably find studies suggesting (or being framed up to suggest) that moderate drinkers are healthier (in terms of heart health, or weight, or hospitalizations) than their sober counterparts. However, it’s important to know that many of those studies don’t correct for overall differences in income (and therefore lifestyle - exercise, healthy eating, etc.). Often, people who don’t drink are slightly less well off than those that do (perhaps some don’t drink at all because they can’t afford to?). The only conclusive evidence is that drinking heavily does serious damage to your health in the short and long term.

So quit or cut back today with us!