According to a federal committee’s recommendations for new U.S. dietary guidelines, men should cap their alcohol consumption at one drink per day. This represents a reduction from the current recommended limit of two drinks per day, matching it to the number of drinks recommended for women.
In July, a committee of experts stated that there is not enough evidence to back different alcohol recommendations for men and women, and that research results suggest reducing the limit for men. However, U.S. health agencies that issue dietary guidelines are not required to implement the committee’s recommendations.
“As a nation, our collective health would be better if people generally drank less,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi, professor at Boston University and one of the experts on the committee.
The recommendations come following a documented rise in Americans’ drinking over the last few decades, as well as increases in alcohol consumption during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The advice is based on significant correlations between drinking habits and all causes of death demonstrated by research studies, including heart disease, cancer and motor vehicle accidents, instead of specific physical harms cause by alcohol. Although such observational studies are not able to establish the cause-and-effect relationship between alcohol consumption and causes of death, they can be used as evidence to create guidelines.
Having two drinks a day is associated with a increased risk of death compared with one drink a day, Dr. Naimi says. Although the increase was modest, it was notable enough for the committee to recommend updating the existing guidelines.
However, he has added that it is not clear whether the proposed new recommendations would influence Americans’ behaviour, as many already exceed the current advice on alcohol limits. Nevertheless, Dr. Naimi said that most people could benefit from any reduction in alcohol, even if they do not strictly adhere to the recommended guidelines.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, told L.A. times that the nutritional guidelines are based on the overall health of the population, and that the individual’s risk from consuming alcohol can vary depending on a variety of health factors and their health habits. Notably, the alcohol consumption limits are meant for individuals who already drink, while the guidelines recommend that individuals who not drink should not start.
Other changes recommended by the committee included reducing the limit on added sugars to less than 6% of calories, which is a reduction from previous limit of 10%.