Is There Really No Safe Amount of Alcohol?

T.Zero is the safest amount to drink, according to new guidance from the Canadian Center for Substance Use and Addiction.

This is a significant change from Canada’s previous national guidance on alcohol consumption, which advised women to have no more than 10 drinks per week and men no more than 15 drinks. Although alcohol-related health effects such as chronic disease, liver damage, and accidents are “likely to be avoided,” the safest option is not to drink at all.

For researchers studying alcohol, the recommendation comes as no surprise. The new report reflects years of shifts in the way scientists and health care providers think about the risks and benefits of alcohol, and was announced on January 4 by the World Health Organization (WHO). follows a similar statement in

“Over the past 20 years or more, evidence has been building up that alcohol is bad for your health,” said John Karachi, a researcher in the Alcohol Research Program at Loyola University Chicago.

If you grew up believing that a glass of red wine every night was good for your heart, you’re not alone. Decades ago, numerous studies found that light to moderate drinking (often defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day or less for men) was beneficial for cardiovascular health. was suggested to be That discovery has taken hold among both the public and policy makers.

But Callaci says more recent studies are calling into question the results of those older studies. Some researchers have found a fundamental difference between non-drinkers (some who abstain due to health problems) and light drinkers (who may lead an overall healthier lifestyle). So while light drinkers appeared to be healthier than non-drinkers, booze may not be the reason.

Some recent studies have found benefits associated with small amounts of alcohol, but there has been a shift in scientific consensus over the past few decades. Reinvestigated, this time to account for “abstainer bias” (the idea that some people do not drink because they have health or past substance abuse problems), with little or no benefits associated with small amounts of drinking. I discovered that .

In 2022, the World Heart Federation released a policy brief debunking the idea that alcohol is heart-healthy. “Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is not good for the heart,” the report said, adding that some studies showing cardiovascular benefits from drinking alcohol are flawed, and recent studies have linked many alcohol-related chronic diseases. In the past year alone, studies have found that alcohol consumption can accelerate genetic aging, shrink the brain, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Alcohol is also considered a known human carcinogen and has been linked to a variety of cancers, including those of the breast, liver, colon, throat, mouth, and esophagus.

Cancer was the focus of WHO’s recent statement on alcohol. The agency noted that half of all alcohol-related cancers diagnosed in Europe are caused by light or moderate drinking, a common consumption pattern across the region. About 8% of adults in the European Union drink alcohol daily, and about 29% drink alcohol weekly.) According to WHO, there is no proven threshold for alcohol consumption to be risk-free. “We cannot talk about so-called safe levels of alcohol use. Regardless of how much you drink, the risks to your health start with the first drop of alcoholic beverages,” said the statement.

A recent report from Canada made a similar point, stating that “drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, is associated with It harms everyone,” he claims.

Other countries are less strongly opposed to alcohol. The US Federal Nutrition Guidelines recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. They certainly say, “It’s better for your health to drink less than to drink less,” but they don’t go so far as to recommend abstinence.

Australia, on the other hand, recommends no more than 10 drinks per week and no more than 4 drinks per day. New Zealand states that women can drink up to 10 times a week and men up to 15 times a week, but suggests abstaining from alcohol at least two days a week. We recommend drinking up to 6 cups. “Although there is no completely safe level of drinking, following these guidelines will reduce your risk of harm to your health,” the guidance says.

Dennis Hien, Ph.D., director of the Rutgers Center for Alcohol and Substance Use Research, says that drinking alcohol is not recommended because risks vary from person to person, depending on demographics, overall health, lifestyle choices, and genetic predisposition to certain conditions. It is difficult to issue comprehensive recommendations for “Her glass of wine for me may not be the same for someone else,” she says.

Still, while it’s difficult to make specific recommendations about how much the population as a whole should or shouldn’t drink, Hien says you shouldn’t pour wine into your glass for health reasons. Drinking it may not harm your health, but that’s not the same as helping it, she says.

Callaci believes there’s enough evidence to suggest that no drinking is the safest option, but he doesn’t expect the US to issue such a recommendation anytime soon. The United States is not as active as many other countries on public health issues, he says, and the alcohol industry has enormous financial and political power. is unlikely to change overnight.

It took decades for smoking rates to drop to their current, historically low levels, even after US public health officials began sounding the alarm about the associated health risks. Cultural perceptions of alcohol may evolve as well, Callaci said, but it’s likely that public health officials will put more extensive warning labels on alcohol packages or make policy statements like those seen elsewhere. Only when there is an intention to send a strong signal, such as announcing

The US isn’t there yet, but “at least we can start telling people to consume less alcohol,” says Callaci. “Maybe that’s the first step.”

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