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US releases latest drinking guidelines

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released its official dietary recommendations and outlined definitions for what it considers to be "problem" drinking behaviour.

The recommended guidelines of one drink a day for women and two for men remain in place.

Heavy or high-risk drinking is classed as: “The consumption of more than three drinks on any day (42g) or more than seven per week for women, and more than four drinks on any day (56g) or more than 14 per week for men.”

A rather more surprising assertion, to European ears perhaps, is the classification of binge drinking as the consumption within two hours of four drinks for women and five or more for men.

In the UK, binge drinking is defined as the consumption of twice the recommended daily number of units; eight or more for men and six units or more for women.

However the report also concedes that while “the consumption of alcohol can have harmful effects, depending on the amount consumed, age, and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol."

The report adds: “Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age.”

The report concludes: “It is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.”

Rupert Millar, 09.02.2011

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