Canada’s new guidance on alcohol is sparking plenty of debate, and while some experts say it could lead to frank conversations with health providers to help drinkers make informed choices, others are questioning the advice to imbibe fewer than two drinks per week.
Heidi Tworek, associate professor of public policy at the University of British Columbia, said the guidance aimed at changing people’s behaviour to reduce their risk of alcohol-related cancer or heart disease should be accompanied by other strategies that help them assess their own situation based on family history or alcohol-use disorder, for example.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction said in a report released last week that no amount of alcohol is safe and those who consume up to two standard drinks per week face a low health risk. This increases to moderate risk for three to six weekly drinks, and is high beyond that.
The guidance is more like a dial rather than a light switch that some people will find helpful as they monitor their consumption, said Tworek, a Canada Research Chair in health communication.
“The guidance will reach some people, but there are a lot of people for whom this isn’t going to resonate or they’re never going to hear about it in the first place,” she said.
The CCSA updated its advice from 2011, when it said 15 drinks per week for men and 10 drinks per week for women was considered low risk. The new recommendations were based on the latest research into risk of cancers including of the breast and colon, as well as risk of injuries, accidents and violence.
It also called for governments to mandate warning labels on alcohol bottles and cans so people know how many standard drinks they