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How Much Is Too Much? Take the Survey
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed October 1, 2004. For more information go to

We call wine, beer and liquor "adult beverages" because we understand that the pleasure that comes from drinking them also demands an adult responsibility in knowing when we've had enough.

But how much is too much? Whether we're talking about drinking before driving or operating dangerous machinery, or longer-term effects on health and longevity that attend alcohol consumption, it's clear to all but the most extreme observers that moderate consumption is harmless or even beneficial; while few would dispute that excessive consumption is a bad idea.

Countless studies reveal a "J-shaped curve" when cardiovascular and general health are plotted against alcohol consumption. Moderate daily consumers of alcohol tend to enjoy better health and longevity than teetotalers, although steady over-indulgence can yield catastrophic health results. Even in such controversial realms as drinking before driving or by pregnant women, there's no evidence of any hazard from moderate consumption other than, perhaps, individual inability to draw the line that separates moderation from excess.

Which brings us to the topic of this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: from the standpoint of an intelligent adult who enjoys good wine in moderation, we're inviting readers to tell us just how much wine (and other alcoholic beverages) you think is too much.

It's not easy to establish a coherent measure for an international audience, as the standard varies in different parts of the world. In the U.S., the standard "drink" is usually established at 5 ounces (150ml) of wine, 12 ounces (360ml) of beer, or a 1 1/2-ounce shot (45ml) of 80-proof spirits. In Britain, Australia and Europe, the metric standard varies slightly. For purposes of this casual poll, however, we're assuming the U.S. measure, which works out to just about five "drinks" in a standard 750ml bottle.

It should also be noted that many health authorities recommend a smaller daily limit for women, based upon average size and also on assumed differences in the ways that men and women metabolize alcohol. In similar fashion, standard advice on driving after drinking recommends adjusting consumption based upon individual weight and size. In this non-scientific survey, we simply suggest that you choose the one answer that works best for you, selecting the number of glasses per day that - for you - represents "one too many."


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