Alcohol Consumption | “Recommendations need to change”

One or two glasses a day for women, two or three for men, five times a week at most? A panel of Canadian experts estimates that these guidelines must be revised downwards, according to which the risk becomes “high” from seven drinks a week.

Posted yesterday at 5:00am

Catherine Handfeld

Catherine Handfeld
The press

On Monday, the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released plans to update Canada’s low-risk alcohol guidelines. This report will be presented to the public for the first time prior to the release of the final results on November 15th.

According to the panel of experts, co-chaired by Quebec sociologist Catherine Paradis, “the science is evolving” and “alcohol recommendations need to change.”

The report therefore proposes a “risk continuum” to the population, based on international data and mathematical models. The alcohol-related risk would be “negligible to low” with one to two drinks per week, “moderate” with three to six drinks per week and “high” with six or more drinks per week.

“We recognize that these new standards will come as a surprise, destabilizing and shocking to some people, but the public has a right to know,” said Catherine Paradis, Deputy Director of Research at the CCSA.

These new benchmarks have “three reasons why”: alcohol can cause at least seven types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer; Alcohol is “not good for the heart”; and finally, alcohol increases the risk of violence.

“Alcohol is a carcinogen, and contrary to popular belief, current data shows that drinking little alcohol does not significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. When it comes to alcohol consumption, less is better,” summarizes Catherine Paradis.

The group intends to recommend Health Canada to pass regulations to mandate the labeling of these new Canadian landmarks, health warnings and nutritional information.

It should be noted that Éduc’alcool’s current recommendations (10 or 15 glasses per week) come from an analysis carried out by the CCSA between 2009 and 2011 who piloted the new report.

Mixed reactions

Director of Prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute, Dr.right Martin Juneau sits on Éduc’alcool’s “independent and voluntary” scientific committee. It is true that alcohol consumption is trivialized in Quebec and that many Quebecers drink too much. Drinking a bottle of wine for two every night “is too much”.

“Where I disagree with the new recommendation is that for them the only correct consumption is zero,” says the Dright Juneau. According to his reading of the latest scientific literature, low wine consumption has a protective effect on cardiovascular diseases.

“If we take wine consumers by quintile, from least heavy drinker to heaviest drinker, there is a protective effect of wine that we don’t see in spirits and beer,” says Dr.right Juneau, according to which the window is “narrow”: one glass a day, two maximum.

The Dright Juneau also wonders about the impact of these new benchmarks from a public health perspective.


The Dright Martin Juneau, Director of Prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute

A glass or two a week? Look, nobody’s gonna listen to this.

The Dright Martin Juneau, Director of Prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute

The cardiologist emphasizes that drinking recommendations should vary from person to person, with each case being different.

The Dright For his part, Réal Morin, specialist in public health and preventive medicine at the National Institute of Public Health, sees the report of the CCSA expert group as rigorous work.

“It’s a report made by top researchers, very qualified scientists who have done very thorough work,” he said. We will certainly build on this work to reflect on our own alcohol and public health issues. »

Alcohol is a risk factor, recalls Dright Morin, and its extent is not known to the general public. According to him, the report refutes this notion that alcohol can be good for health. “No, alcohol is never good for your health,” says the Dright Réal Morin, honoring scientists questioning the protective effects of alcohol. “Less is always more,” he says. This is something important for the public to know. »

Éduc’alcool did not want to comment on the conclusions of Tuesday’s report, preferring to first analyze the content of the update project with its scientific advisors.

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  • 60%
    Portion of Canadians who drink six or fewer drinks per week

    Source: Statistics Canada

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