New alcohol guidelines recommending that Canadians limit themselves to just two drinks a week – and ideally cut out alcohol altogether – have sparked an intense debate about risk versus enjoyment in a country where the vast majority of adults consume alcohol regularly.
The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) this week called for significant reductions in consumption, warning that seemingly moderate alcohol consumption poses a number of serious health risks, including cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The new guidelines, funded by Health Canada, represent a dramatic shift from previous recommendations issued in 2011, when Canadians were told low-risk consumption meant no more than 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men.
“We wanted to simply present the evidence to the Canadian public, so they can think about their drinking and make informed decisions,” said Peter Butt, a professor of family medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and a member of the drafting committee. Guidelines. “It’s fundamentally based on a right to know.”
In its measurements, the CCSA considers a standard drink to be a 12 oz (355 ml) serving of 5% alcohol beer, a 5 oz (148 ml) glass of 12% alcohol wine, or a 40% alcohol glass.
In the UK, the NHS recommends no more than six 6oz glasses of wine or six pints of 4% beer per week – ideally spread over three days or more. Health officials in the United States recommend no more than two drinks a day for men and just one for women.
But Canadian experts say new research suggests three to six drinks a week should be considered a moderate risk for both men and women, and seven or more drinks a week a high risk. In addition to increased risk of colon and breast cancer, as well as heart disease and stroke, the CCSA also identified injury and violence as negative outcomes of alcohol consumption.
“This is not about a ban. “This is simply about reducing the amount one drinks,” Booth said.
The guidelines also warn that no amount of alcohol is safe when you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. While abstinence while breastfeeding is the safest option, regular drinking occasionally does not significantly increase the risk.
Some health experts greeted the new guidelines with skepticism.
“This type of research often marginalizes other aspects of health and well-being than alcohol,” said Dan Malleck, professor of health sciences at Brock University.
“Given their job as the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse and Addiction, there’s no room to think there could be any benefit.” Their job is to find damage.”
Malleck described the guidelines as “irresponsible” and said they risk creating “anxiety and stress” among Canadians who once considered themselves moderate drinkers but now occupy the “high risk” category.
“The research they use also ignores the enjoyment and pleasure and stress relief and collegiality associated with alcohol.” “None of that is in the calculation,” he said. “We are not just machines with inputs and outputs of chemicals or nutrition.” We actually exist in a social space. And that has a significant impact on our health.”
Others, however, see the guidelines as an attempt to help Canadians better understand the realities of alcohol consumption.
“Alcohol is a psychoactive drug. Occasional use will not have really significant effects. Even if you used something like heroin occasionally, you probably wouldn’t see significant effects on your life. But that’s the thing: People don’t use alcohol occasionally — they use it every day,” said Taryn Grider, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.
“We’re hoping that people will reduce their use and not drink every day because we’ve seen research that shows alcohol is carcinogenic.”
Grider says there are components in alcohol that can be beneficial, but are usually only found in certain beverages.
“A glass of red wine a day can have some benefits.” But not beer, not even a glass of hard alcohol. I think people bought into the idea that alcohol could have health benefits and really bought into it.
The CCSA also suggested that there could be benefits from mandatory labeling of alcoholic beverages – warning of possible health risks and including guidance on consumption standards.
“It could help change people’s perception, with labels showing liver cirrhosis and the possible long-term effects that drinking can have,” Grider said. “Everyone is different and some people metabolize alcohol differently.
“But these guidelines are for the average person, and we hope that people will recognize the risks associated with use — and especially long-term use.”