The effects on health of moderate alcohol consumption are greatly exaggerated

You’ve probably read the news from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) about the dangers of drinking alcohol. It’s been splashed all over news outlets and social media.

The message from the CCSA is blunt: no amount of alcohol is safe, and even as few as three standard drinks a week pose a health danger, including higher risk of several cancers and most kinds of cardiovascular diseases.

The findings are so alarming that labels on alcohol bottles have been suggested similar to tobacco warnings.

The new guidelines are quite a departure from previous ones that called for no more than 10 standard drinks per week for women, and 15 for men.

This comes as a shock to moderate drinkers like me. I make my own beer and wine and like any hobby, I joke, if I didn’t drink the beer and wine I would find myself out of a hobby. And idle hands are the devil’s tools.

And who is going to come out contrary to the CCSA and suggest that moderate drinking is OK? To do so would seem to run contrary sobriety. Who is going to advocate drinking?

So, at the risk of being one of those people, I’m going to defend moderate alcohol consumption which I define as seven standard drinks a week. And I’m going to use the CCSA’s own studies in my defence.

A standard drink in Canada equals a 12 oz. bottle of five per cent beer, 1.5 oz. of 40 per cent hard liquor, or a 5 oz. glass of 12 per cent wine.

image: Rethink your

Contrary to the exaggerated headlines, the CCSA says: “For many years, the commonly held belief that drinking in moderation offered protection against heart disease has been widely publicized. Research in the last decade is more nuanced with the most recent and highest quality systematic reviews showing that drinking a little alcohol neither decreases nor increases the risk of heart disease (Globe and Mail Jan 31, 2023.)”

Drinking a little has no effect on heart disease.

The recent exaggerated claims run contrary to the centre’s own data – consistent with earlier studies – showing that modest alcohol consumption reduces the risk of some types of cardiovascular disease.

Yes, modest alcohol consumption reduces some types of cardiovascular disease.

Here are the facts: There is no statistically significant difference in overall health risk between a lifetime abstainer and a drinker as long as alcohol consumption is less than seven standard drinks a week.

And there’s a protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption against three of six identified cardiovascular diseases for those consuming up to seven drinks a week, as compared with lifetime abstainers.

Moderate alcohol consumption provides a protective effect for one-half of cardiovascular diseases.

There are obvious adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption but to exaggerate the claims that moderate consumption creates unnecessary anxiety. It’s reminiscent of prohibition days when temperance activists believed that alcohol was an obstacle to economic success; to social cohesion; and to moral and religious purity.

So, raise a glass to good health and moderate drinking.


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