Canada’s New Guidelines for Alcohol Say ‘No Amount’ Is Healthy

Dr. Catherine Paradis, interim associate director of research at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, said that consumption of even two drinks per week has been associated with an elevated risk of seven types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Paradis, who was a co-chairwoman of the panel that developed the new guidelines, noted that the World Health Organization had recently declared that the harms associated with drinking alcohol had been “systematically evaluated over the years and are well documented” and that “when it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health.”

The good news, the report said, is that any reduction in alcohol consumption is beneficial. This is true even for those who do not cut their drinking to low or moderate levels. In fact, those consuming high levels of alcohol have much to gain by reducing their consumption by as much as possible, the report states.

“We have this line: Drink less, live more,” said Dr. Alexander Caudarella, chief executive of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. “The idea is that any reduction of alcohol will significantly reduce your risk.”

The new guidelines depart from the specific drink limits called for in other Western countries.

Australia, for example, recommends no more than 10 drinks a week and no more than four drinks on any one day. Britain recommends drinking no more than six medium glasses of wine or six pints of beer per week. The guidelines in the United States call for two drinks or fewer a day for men and one drink or fewer per day for women.

Canadian health officials said they hoped their less prescriptive approach would encourage consumers to make healthier choices.

“The guidance is really a fundamentally different way of looking at alcohol and saying we need to be much more open and transparent about what are the risks associated with it and what the science has shown us,” Dr. Caudarella said. “It’s really putting it out there in a way that lets people assess their own risk level and work toward it.”

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