Close Menu

Canada publishes drastic new alcohol health guidelines

New national guidance in Canada has recommended that citizens consume a maximum of two drinks per week, with the report claiming “any amount of alcohol is not good for your health”. 

Glasses of red wine - Canada's alcohol health guidance changes

The guidance, released on Tuesday by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) was issued after two years of research, a review of nearly 6,000 studies and a survey of around 1,000 members of the public.

The report, which was funded in part by Health Canada, states that any more than two ‘standard’ drinks per week represents an increased risk in negative outcomes, including various cancers.

Canada defines a ‘standard’ drink as a bottle of beer, glass of wine, a single shot of spirits or a bottle of cider.

This new CCSA report is an update on a 2011 report titled Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. Then, guidelines recommended a maximum of 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks for men, throwing into stark relief the extent of the change in advice from health officials.

“The principles that we want to land on is that people have a right to know less is better, and that there’s harm reduction strategies that people can use to decrease the amount that they drink in order to improve their health and well-being,” commented Dr. Peter Butt, the co-chair of project that establishes Canada’s alcohol guidelines.

Erin Hobin, a member of the panel of experts responsible for putting together the guidance, added, “The main message from this new guidance is that any amount of alcohol is not good for your health.

And if you drink, less is better.”

Dr Hobin conceded that the guidance may seem “shocking” for members of the public, but explained, “I think it’s very new information for the public that at three standard drinks per week, the risk for head and neck cancers increases by 15%, and further increases with every additional drink.”

Canada’s alcohol industry, meanwhile, is attempting to fend off calls for mandatory health warnings on bottle and container labels.

CJ Helie, president of Beer Canada, told CTV News that the industry was voluntarily advising people to moderate their drinking, rendering health warning labels unnecessary.

“A number of Canadian brewers, including a number of our members, have voluntary health warning labels or pictographs on packaging dealing with warnings against drinking while pregnant and driving while intoxicated,” he said.

Canada’s new alcohol guidance places it on the more conservative end of the spectrum compared with other countries. Guidance published by Australia in 2020 recommended a maximum of 10 drinks per week, with France’s guidelines also in step with that total.

The UK recommends no more than 14 units of alcohol per week – roughly six ‘standard’ drinks.

Other studies have suggested that red wine in particular may actually benefit health in specific ways. Health data from 32 nations through the INTERSTROKE study demonstrated evidence that moderate wine consumption could lead to a reduced incidence of strokes.

And a research team at Italy’s University of Naples Federico II found that drinking two glasses of wine per day was linked with a reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease of 32%. However, any higher consumption had an adverse effect on one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No