Canadian health officials this week cut guidelines on how much alcohol is safe to drink, suggesting that regular drinking more than twice a week may increase cancer risk.
This is down from the 2011 guidelines of “10 standard drinks per week for women, no more than 2 per day on most days, and 15 standard drinks per week for men.”
Updated Australian guidelines for 2020 suggest that healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks per day.
“Australia’s guidelines were based on a risk threshold of 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition,” said Associate Professor Michael Livingston of Curtin University. universe“This is based on the best epidemiology and modeling we have access to, and we found it to be about 10 standard drinks per week for both men and women.”
“Although the underlying evidence base has not changed dramatically since the Australian guidelines were prepared, the Australian Commission has chosen a slightly different threshold level selection method than the Canadian Commission. bottom.
“In all cases, the committee basically picks somewhat arbitrary points on the risk curve of the simple guideline they put out. Whether it is set to 0 or 1 in 20 will affect the final guidelines.”
The standard Canadian drink and the standard Australian drink are slightly different. Canadians have 13.45 grams of pure alcohol in one standard drink, while Australians have 10 grams. However, even after adjusting the numbers, Australian guidelines still allow for four times more alcohol than she does in Canada.
Livingston points out that some risks, such as cancer, begin when you drink very little, while others, such as liver disease, are almost negligible after drinking a few times a week.
“Alcohol is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths annually. About 1,500 are due to alcohol-only deaths, such as alcoholic cirrhosis and alcohol poisoning, and another 4,000 or so are alcohol-related. , based in part on deaths from cancer and deaths from heart disease,” he says.
Canadian guidelines tell you to drink 3 to 6 standard drinks per week. You have an increased risk of developing some types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. Drinking more than 7 standard drinks per week (equivalent to almost 10 standard drinks in Australia) significantly increases his risk of heart disease and stroke.
“There is a lot of evidence that reducing per capita alcohol consumption means fewer people drinking heavily and less harm from alcohol,” he adds.
Professor Simone Pettigrew, program director for health promotion and behavior change at The George Institute, agrees.
“Even the 2009 Australian Alcohol Guidelines state that ‘every occasion of drinking contributes to a lifetime risk of alcohol harm’. We just did a poor job of making them aware of this,” she said. universe.
“We’ve been doing these large-scale meta-analyses…and the evidence that it’s a linear relationship is becoming clearer and clearer. It’s a carcinogen. It is an opportunity and people should minimize or completely eliminate alcohol consumption.”
“But in a culture where alcohol accompanies almost every event, that’s a really difficult message.”
But Pettigrew explains that the news isn’t all doom and gloom. Alcohol consumption in Australia is lower than in other countries such as the UK, France and Spain, and alcoholic beverages per capita has also declined over the last few decades.
“Our guidelines are actually very good on the international scene. There are undoubtedly many countries with worse guidelines, even though they allow higher intakes. And Canada.” Some countries are even stricter, like ,” says Pettigrew.
“One of the things we consider when creating and disseminating the guidelines is that we don’t want people to think it’s too unrealistic and ignore it completely.” Our guidelines are doing very well in that regard, but I think they will become stricter in the future, just like what we’ve seen in Canada.”