Just how risky is it to drink more alcohol than Canada’s new guide advises?

When newly revised guidelines for low-risk alcohol use were announced last week, it quickly sparked controversy and, in some cases, dissatisfaction. felt and immediately dismissed them.

Guidelines released last Tuesday by the Canadian Center for Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) say there is no safe amount of alcohol and no more than two drinks per week for men and women as alcohol-related deaths soar in Canada. said to recommend

“My first impression was, ‘No kidding!

He suggested that the way the CCSA presents alcohol cancer risks is exaggerated, adding that the lack of comparative risks makes it difficult for people to understand. I was suggesting,” he said.

Other Canadians wanted a clearer risk comparison, said they wanted to understand how dangerous it is to consume more than the recommended number of glasses per week, and ultimately wanted to make their own decisions. rice field.

“If the already low chance of cancer were to increase by 0.5%, 1% or even 5%, thousands of cases would really make sense. Bob Burns, a former medical doctor from Nanaimo, British Columbia, was one of dozens of people who reached out to CBC News for comment after the guide was published. said.

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Burns, who has had breast cancer, wanted to know exactly how much alcohol contributed to each type of cancer. . It is scientifically difficult to compare the cancer risk of drinking a few extra glasses of tequila to other life-threatening activities.

“It’s good that people are working on the numbers,” said Peter Butt, associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan School of Medicine and co-chair of Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health.

“There is no safe level, so less is always better.”

What is acceptable risk?

The CCSA authors point to a 2019 UK study that compared the cancer risks of alcohol and tobacco. They say it’s not widely cited and is a bit problematic given tobacco’s high addictiveness, but it’s still an interesting comparison.

The study found that a standard drink was equivalent to one cigarette for men and two cigarettes for women. This summary explains that one bottle of wine per week is associated with an increased lifetime cancer risk. This is the same as 5 cigarettes a week for men and 10 cigarettes a week for women.

But Marek says nothing is clear in the new moderate alcohol use guidelines, claiming cancer is being used as a scare tactic. Except for people with cancer, liver disease, and several other conditions, it shows no evidence of an “underlying” risk of cancer, causing undue stress to the public.

Group of hands toasting glasses together in the sun.
A British study compared the cancer risk of cigarettes and alcohol and found that men had one cigarette for every cigarette, and women twice that. (Shutterstock/New Africa)

“If you’re causing people anxiety and worry, you’re not really doing anything for anyone because they know that anxiety and worry are bad for their physical health. Because we know,” Marek said.

Butt explained that there are scientific parameters for calculating acceptable risk.

These are based on a set of internationally recognized “risk of death” criteria, he said. As for alcohol, Bhatt said, people seem more willing to accept the higher risk of death associated with its consumption compared to other spontaneous activities.

A report on the new guidelines categorizes risk by number of drinks per week and specific diseases. This accurately describes the life expectancy of 1,000 men and 1,000 women, depending on the number of drinks consumed in a week and the type of illness.

In countries such as Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, it is not uncommon for alcohol guideline recommendations to be based on a 1 in 100 mortality risk limit.

New guidelines state that in Canada, the 1 in 1,000 chance of premature alcohol-related death limit is 2 standard drinks per week, and the 1 in 100 risk limit is 6 drinks per week. It was decided to be a standard drink.

“Parsing it like this makes the numbers sobering, but that’s the proof,” Batt wrote in an email to the CBC.

To determine the risks associated with alcohol and cancer, Batt said, they relied on a systematic review of studies of 200 conditions causally linked to alcohol. Robust population health data that must pass internationally recognized grading analysis and causality proven in animal studies.

“This doesn’t work”

Heidi Tworek, an associate professor of public policy at the University of British Columbia, said it might be more helpful if the guide provided strategies to help individuals assess risk based on family health history and alcohol use patterns. .

That way the guide should be a little more accessible, she said.

“There are a lot of people who say this doesn’t resonate or they’re never going to hear about it in the first place,” said Tworek, the Canadian Research Commissioner for Health Communication.

See | No Red Wine Heart Benefits:

Cardiologist says alcohol is bad for your heart

According to cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos, red wine is not heart-protective and alcohol can actually be harmful.

As for complaints about new guidelines ignoring alcohol’s benefits, experts say Canada has ignored the real costs of alcohol overdose for too long.

“Red wine is bad for your heart. Red wine raises your blood pressure. Alcohol basically just makes you gain weight. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar. There’s a reason we call it a beer belly instead of a celery belly.” There is,” Montreal cardiologist Christopher Labos told the CBC News Network this week.

Some studies suggest that alcohol may adversely affect mental health and increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Excessive alcohol consumption can also interfere with vitamin absorption and sugar processing, leading to loss of memory, movement, vision, and coordination.

“I think anyone who thinks there’s nothing wrong with alcohol is going to get very bad advice,” Malek said.

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