Alcohol Czar Warns Just Two Beers A Week

Shelves display bottles of tequila for sale at a Pennsylvania fine wine and spirits store, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Harmony, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

In light of recent studies revealing the dangers posed by drinking alcohol, the USDA in the United States is reportedly reviewing its guidelines related to drinking. The current guidance allows men to consume up to two alcoholic drinks per day and for women to have up to one.

The director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Dr. George Koob, told that the US is closely observing the “big experiment” in Canada, where the guidelines are recommending that people have no more than two drinks per week. “If there's health benefits, I think people will start to re-evaluate where we're at [in the US],” Dr. Koob stated.

This June, a major study warned that drinking any amount of alcohol raised the risk of someone suffering sixty diseases, including thirty-three that had never before been linked to alcohol consumption. These included cancers, strokes, and liver cirrhosis, a type of scarring in the liver caused by alcohol abuse.

According to the US guidelines, a drink is defined as containing 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol which is equivalent to one beer, one glass of wine at 12 percent alcohol, or one shot. However, Dr. Koob stated there are “no benefits” to drinking alcohol in terms of physical health.

He cited the Mediterranean diet, socio-economic status, and other factors unrelated to alcohol as being more beneficial than consuming the drink itself. Whilst acknowledging the social benefits of alcohol, he noted there is an increasing body of research that shows even a small amount of drinking can be dangerous for one’s health.

The Canadian health authorities, however, advised that people should limit themselves to two drinks per week, a suggestion that Dr. Koob described as “shocking.” The updated evidence-based guidelines will be released in 2025, but Dr. Koob noted that the recommendations are likely to progress in the direction of Canada’s advice.

The Canadian review also drew criticism from some corners, who accused the authorities of “ignore” the benefits of drinking in social and other contexts. Dr. Dan Malleck of Brock University in Canada noted the important role that alcohol can play in many lives, such as celebration and relaxation. Experts have claimed that such positive effects are not taken adequately into account in studies looking at alcohol consumption.

The review of the US alcohol guidelines is currently underway and people will have to wait for the new advice when it is released at the end of 2025. In the meantime, the jury is still out on the best way to navigate the health risks associated with moderate drinking. Until then, it is wise to take the existing advice and limit alcohol consumption to two drinks per day for men and one for women.

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