Why Alcohol Affects Females Differently Than Males, Physically and Mentally
Alcohol affects men and women differently, but what people don’t know is why. One popular belief is that women become intoxicated faster than men because women are smaller. This explanation does not tell the whole story, because alcohol will affect a woman differently than a man even when they weigh the same amount. Scientists have studied this question, and their research has been able to offer reasons why alcohol affects females differently than males.
The Female Body Contains Less Water
One reason why alcohol affects females differently than males is because the female body does not have as much water as the male body. This fact allows the female body to store more alcohol in the bloodstream than is possible in a man’s body. With more alcohol in the bloodstream, a woman is more likely than a man to suffer from damage to the brain, heart and liver.
The Female Body Has More Fat
One thing that the female body does contain in greater amounts than a man’s body is fat. However, body fat does not absorb alcohol, and this may be the reason that women carry more alcohol in their bloodstreams than men do. It may also be the reason that a woman of the same weight and height as her male companion will become intoxicated before her friend does.
How Alcohol Affects the Female Brain
Researchers took images of the brains of alcoholics and non-alcoholics and found differences that may suggest that alcohol negatively affects a woman’s brain more profoundly than a man’s brain. The results showed that one region within the alcoholic women’s brains was smaller than the same area in alcoholic men and non-alcoholic women.
The Role Estrogen Plays in Intoxication
Another study suggests a possible reason that women are more likely to develop liver diseases than men. The findings demonstrate that the female hormone estrogen may play a role in helping to increase the risk of liver damage. For this reason, women can consume less alcohol than men over a shorter period of time and develop cirrhosis and hepatitis before a male counterpart does. This problem can be exacerbated if women take birth control pills, because these pills are believed to extend the period of time that women feel the effects of alcohol.
One Crucial Enzyme Is Lacking in Women
The enzyme gastric alcohol dehydrogenase helps to break alcohol down within the stomach before it can be absorbed by the body. This reduces a person’s level of intoxication. Another reason why alcohol affects females differently than males is the fact that women do not have as much of the gastric alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme as men do. Therefore, more of the alcohol that women consume is absorbed. That’s why women can drink less than a man, but become intoxicated at a faster rate.
How the Liver Reacts
The way the liver reacts to alcohol is also different in women than in men. The liver is largely responsible for metabolizing alcohol, and it is done very efficiently in women. That’s why physicians believe that alcohol does not remain within a woman’s bloodstream as long as it stays in a man’s bloodstream.