Alcohol drinking guide stresses moderation

Canada's new alcohol drinking recommendations aim to help guide people in how much to consume and they encourage moderation.

Canada's new alcohol drinking recommendations aim to help guide people in how much to consume and they encourage moderation.

The new guidelines from the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee were released Friday. 
The new guidelines define a drink as a 142-mL glass of 12 per cent alcohol wine. (Natalie Behring/Reuters)

To reduce long-term health risks, no more than two drinks a day, five times a week or 10 drinks total a week for women are recommended and no more than three drinks a day, five times a week or 15 drinks total a week are recommended for men.

They also recommend including days free of alcohol. 

Federal, provincial and territorial health ministers discussed the new guidelines at a recent meeting and said they will promote their use within their jurisdictions.

To reduce the risk of injury and harm, the group advised drinking no more than three drinks for women and four drinks for men on any single occasion.

If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or before breastfeeding, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all, according to the document.

Tips for responsible drinking

"Canada's National Alcohol Strategy underscores the need to develop a culture of moderation," Michel Perron, co-chair of the advisory committee and CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, said in a statement.

Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health guidelines for "low-risk" consumption were set in 1997 at nine drinks per week for women and 14 per week for men.

In the new guidelines, "a drink" means:

  • 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle of 5% alcohol beer, cider or cooler.
  • 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of 12% alcohol wine.
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 40% distilled alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc.)

"We know alcohol has toxic properties but there also some benefits and if you weigh them up, this is what you get in terms of what is a lower-risk approach to alcohol," said CBC medical specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele.

The guidelines include tips, Kabasele said, including:

  • Drink slowly. Have no more than two drinks in any three hours.
  • For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink not only to prevent intoxication but also hangovers afterward.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking to prevent rapid absorption and short-term effects.
  •  Always consider your age, body weight and health problems.

Until now, there were no national guidelines in Canada.