How wine affects women differently than men

Healthy Living

CINCINNATI -- Women are drinking more wine now than any time in recent history.

Whether it's a girls' night out, happy hour or just a couch date with a friend, more women are getting together to enjoy a glass or two of wine.

Some women call it "mommy juice," or "mommy's time out."

There are Facebook groups with hundreds of thousands of members called "Mom's Who Need Wine" and "OMG I So Need a Glass of Wine" or "I'm Gonna' Sell My Kids"

If you're a "Scandal" fan, you would recognize Olivia Pope's infamous wine glass. It's sold out.

Between 1999 and 2008 the number of young women in the emergency room for being dangerously intoxicated rose 52 percent

Gallup polls show the more educated and well off a woman is, the more likely she is to drink. Two-thirds of American women are drinking regularly, whether it's rewarding or relaxing.

Doctor Stephen Strakowski, chair of the Psychiatry Department at UC Health's Neuroscience Institute, explained the effects of wine on women.

"It activates the reward center so if you've had a difficult day, it's a nice balance to encourage the reward to make you feel more positive." Strakowski said.

Jill Meyer was a stay-at-home-mom who raised four kids in Delhi Township. Her mommy time was meeting her girlfriends for Bunco.

"You give so much of yourself to your kids that you look forward to the time you can sit down with just adults and have a glass of wine and unwind," Meyer said.

Many women agree that with wine comes sharing.

"Women when they drink they tend to open up more and share their life stories," Meyer said. "Where maybe if they didn't have the glass of wine they may not have the tendency to be so open, but the wine just sort of relaxes us and we get to share things in our heart."

Just looking around The Unwind Wine Bar in Hyde Park there are groups of women meeting to unwind.

Oakley resident Danielle O'Rourke met her four friends there after work. She said they meet to celebrate good days and work through bad.

"Sometimes it's a reward for having a great week, or getting through the day, and sometimes it's all about getting through the day," said Danielle O'Rourke.

For some, wine is a coping mechanism. Research shows women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety or depression and are far more likely to medicate those conditions with alcohol.

Meyer said she knows her limit is two glasses -- and three comes with a headache. But for some its the limit that's tough.

"You start drinking, you become uninhibited, you impulsively reward seek -- and pretty soon instead of having that glass of wine you were planning to have at your book club you've had six glasses," Strakowski said.

Women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men. They have a higher blood alcohol concentration after drinking the same amount, mainly because they have a smaller amount of body water. Women also have lower activity of alcohol metabolizing enzymes in their stomachs.

Drinking also speeds up your biological clock by dropping your vitamin A level, which is an important antioxidant for your skin and vital in the regeneration of new cells.

But at the end of the day, Strakowski says there's nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine.

"There's medical studies that a little bit of red wine may even have some benefit," Strakowski said. "But the reality is a bottle of wine has no medical benefit. It's not going to do anything more than get you intoxicated and add weight."

Strakowski advises people to stick to one drink per hour.

So when do you know if you have a problem?

Experts say a good test is cutting out alcohol for a week. Not being able to do that is a red flag.

National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking for women as one drink per day and no more than seven drinks per week.

For men moderate drinking is defined as no more than two drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

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