Can men drink more alcohol than women?

Stress and emotions aside, men and women are not created equal when it comes to handling alcohol. Physiologically, there is a difference between how men and women handle alcohol that can cause women to feel the effects of alcohol sooner. Women have less of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomachs than men. Because this enzyme helps breakdown alcohol, more alcohol will be absorbed and enter a woman’s blood through her stomach than a man’s. Women have less body water than men. 

Because alcohol mixes in water, women are less able to dilute the alcohol being distributed throughout their bodies. Thus, a woman’s brain will be exposed to a more concentrated and intoxicating amount of alcohol than a man’s.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Though the average woman is smaller than the average man, size doesn't matter in determining how men and women handle their alcohol. Men have higher levels of an enzyme in their stomachs that digests alcohol. So when a man drinks a bottle of beer and a woman drinks a bottle of beer, the woman's alcohol goes into the bloodstream, but only about half of the alcohol goes into the male bloodstream. Women also have less body water than men, so even at the same weight as a man, alcohol will be more concentrated in a woman's blood because there’s not as much water to dilute it. The result -- she’ll get drunker than a man of her weight.

Asian and Native American women are at an even greater disadvantage. Asians lack the enzyme in their liver to be able to break down alcohol. If you lack that system, then you don't detoxify alcohol as well.

The explanation for this missing enzyme is biological. It might be because in Asian cultures, instead of fermenting their drinkables, like making beer, they would boil the water to make tea. That meant they didn't have to have a system in their liver to get rid of the alcohol. They could just drink their water.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.