No more than 2 drinks per week say new alcohol guidelines

Oct 5, 2022

Newly proposed Canadian guidelines for alcohol consumption recommend a maximum of two drinks per week to reduce the risk of negative health consequences.

According to a new report published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) after two years of research and a review of over 5,000 peer-reviewed studies, alcohol consumption in even small quantities can be harmful.

“The risk of negative outcomes begins to increase with any consumption, and with more than two standard drinks [per week], most individuals will have an increased risk of injuries or other problems,” states the report.

The findings of the new report are contrary to current Health Canada guidelines, which were also created by the CCSA and last updated in 2011, recommending that men should limit their alcohol consumption to no more than three drinks per day and 15 drinks per week, two drinks per day and 10 drinks per week. Health Canada guidelines define a single drink as 12 oz. of beer with 5% alcohol, 5 oz. of wine with 12% alcohol, or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor with 40% alcohol.

In addition, the new guidelines state that consuming three to six drinks a week can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer or colon cancer, while more than seven drinks per week can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. The report also notes that cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and that alcohol can cause at least seven different types of cancer. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canadians, and the CCSA states that research demonstrates that alcohol consumption is associated with heart problems.

“For many years, the commonly held belief that drinking in moderation offered protection against heart disease has been widely publicized. Research in the last decade is more nuanced with the most recent and highest quality systematic reviews showing that drinking a little alcohol neither decreases nor increases the risk of heart disease,” the report states. “At higher levels of use, alcohol is a risk factor for most types of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease and heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and stroke.”

The report also notes that the lifetime health risks from consuming over two alcoholic drinks per week “increases more steeply for women than for men.” Due to the differences in enzymes, genes, body weight, organ function, and metabolism, alcohol has a greater negative impact on women and carries a higher risk of liver damage and diseases such as breast cancer, the report states.

However, according to the CCSA, men are more likely than women to drink in excess. Consequently, men are also more likely to be involved in impaired driving collisions or become hospitalized for alcohol-related medical emergencies.

The CCSA has initiated a six-week online public consultation on the new drinking guidelines, which will continue until September 23.

“We want people in Canada to have the latest evidence-based advice on alcohol to support them in making informed decisions about its use,” CCSA CEO Alexander Caudarella said in a news release. “We’re excited to enter these final stages. The feedback we receive will help us ensure the clarity and validity of the final updated Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines we’ll be releasing this fall.”