Canada revises low-risk drinking guidelines to ‘one to two’ drinks per week

Just one to two standard drinks per week is considered low risk to health, according to Canada’s updated alcohol guidelines. Between three and six per week represents a moderate risk, while the more consumed above that the higher the risk of ‘seven types of cancer, most types of cardiovascular diseases, liver disease and violence’, states Canada’s guidance on alcohol and health.

The guidance aims to help people make informed decisions about their drinking.

The new guidelines, which are designed to support people in ‘making informed decisions about their health’, substantially revise the country’s previous guidance from 2011 which recommended no more than 15 drinks a week for men and ten for women. ‘For your health, less is better,’ says The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), which published the guidelines. ‘If you’re going to drink, don’t exceed more than two drinks on any day,’ it adds. ‘The more you drink, the higher your risk.’

The UK’s own drinking guidelines were revised down from 21 units a week for men and 14 for women to 14 for both men and women in 2016 with the aim of ‘keeping the risk of mortality from cancers or other diseases low,’ the government stated at the time. This was because the ‘links between alcohol and cancer were not fully understood in the original guidelines, which came out in 1995.’

Canada’s new guidance is the result of a two-year research project led by CCSA and funded by Health Canada, the government department responsible for national health policy. The project involved looking at almost 6,000 peer-reviewed studies, and an expert panel of more than 20 scientists. In 2018 Canada became the first G7 country to legalise and regulate recreational cannabis (

‘People have a right to know this information,’ said CCSA chief executive Alexander Caudarella. ‘The evidence is clear that every drink counts. It’s also clear that it’s never too late to make changes. Any reduction in alcohol use can be beneficial. Health professionals can now better determine an individual’s risk and collaborate with their patients to improve their health.’

‘Canadians need to know there are serious health risks associated with drinking alcohol, including elevated risk of multiple types of cancer,’ added CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, Andrea Seale. ‘Many Canadians are unaware that alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, and most don’t realise they are drinking unsafe amounts. This guidance is so important because it clarifies that the less alcohol you drink, the lower your cancer risk.’

Canada’s guidance on alcohol and health: final report at ccsa.caread it here

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