Why Alcohol Affects Women Differently Than Men

By James Madeiros


Alcohol Incites Gender Inequality

Gender equality is the admirable goal of any progressive society, but alcohol seems to disagree, at least as far as it’s concerned.

Alcohol unequally affects men and women, getting women intoxicated more quickly and in less amounts than men. It is commonly understood that this is caused in part because women are typically smaller than men and generally have a higher percentage of body fat compared to body water, which alters absorption rates.

What may be surprising is that women actually metabolize alcohol differently than men due to a comparatively small amount of an enzyme called gastric alcohol dehydrogenase. This enzyme breaks down alcohol in the stomach prior to absorption, which acts to decrease a person’s level of intoxication.

Women have less of this enzyme coating their stomachs, which means more alcohol that is consumed is absorbed through the stomach. A recent study concluded that women reach the legal limit for drunk driving by drinking 20-30 percent less alcohol than men, even when weight is accounted for in the comparison.


Advocates for DUI reform claim the legal consequences of this disparity are as significant as the implications for healthy drinking. The regulations as they are written today do not account for these metabolic differences and can arguably result in the unfair application of the law.


Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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