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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Explained: Why a US govt body says men shouldn’t have more than one glass of alcohol a day

The fresh advisory is a change from the current recommendation, which says men can take up to two drinks a day, while women can take up to one drink a day. 

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 19, 2020 2:05:37 pm
alcohol, how much alcohol is safe, alcohol health effects, safe alcohol consumption men, safe alcohol consumption women, US govt alcohol advisory, express explained, indian expressThe WHO and the US government recognise alcohol as a human carcinogen. (Picture for representation)

In its new advisory report for the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is updated every five years, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said that men should limit their alcohol intake to one drink a day. This is a change from the current recommendation that says men can take up to two drinks a day, while women can take up to one drink a day.

What is the new recommendation based on?

The report states that alcohol consumption and binge drinking is increasing in the US and is a leading behavioral risk factor for a variety of morbidity and mortality outcomes. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, alcohol consumption in the US has increased by eight per cent in the last 20 years. Read in Tamil

Significantly, men tend to drink more than women across all age groups and the cancer types associated with alcohol consumption are more common in men than women. As per the US CDC, men are also more likely than women to take other risks, such as driving fast or without a seat belt, which can increase the risk of death or injury when combined with excessive drinking.

Now the report has limited the recommended intake of alcoholic beverages to one drink a day for both men and women, which is classified as moderate drinking.

How much alcohol are American adults drinking?

The report notes that as of now, alcoholic beverages rank second as a source of beverage calories for men, while among women they rank third. Overall, alcoholic beverages contribute 5-7 per cent of an adult male’s total calorie intake and 3-4 per cent among adult females.

Further, 56 per cent of adults older than 21 years of age reported past-month alcohol consumption and nearly half of current drinkers reported past-month binge drinking.

Significantly, alcohol consumption accounts for over 100,000 deaths per year in the US. Of all the alcohol-attributable deaths, over 88,000 are due to excessive drinking. Significantly, more than twice the number of men than women die from excessive drinking.

The WHO and the US government recognise alcohol as a human carcinogen. It is causally associated with seven types of cancer, including breast and colorectal cancer. Overall, alcohol is responsible for 3.5-5.5 per cent of all cancer deaths in the US.

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What does one drink a day mean?

In the US, a standard alcoholic drink would mean 14 grams of ethanol, which is the same as 12 fluid ounces, or roughly 350 ml (a pint) of beer with 5 per cent alcohol, or about 150 ml of wine with 12 per cent alcohol, or a typical shot of a distilled spirit with 40 per cent alcohol content. One gram of ethanol has about seven calories, which means a standard drink would have about 100 calories, with more calories added by the non-alcoholic components.

What classifies as excessive drinking?

While there is no exact definition for excessive drinking, it typically translates to the consumption of five or more drinks per occasion for men and four or more drinks per occasion for women (binge drinking), or more than 15 drinks per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women (heavy drinking). Frequent binge drinking would mean drinking those amounts on five or more days during the past month.

About a quarter of all adults older than 21 years of age reported past-month binge drinking and among these, 25 per cent reported frequent binge drinking. Even so, most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol-dependent.

What are some of the health risks of consuming alcohol?

Short-term health risks include injuries such as motor vehicle crashes, drowning, falls and burns, alcohol poisoning, violence and risky sexual behaviors. Long-term health risks, on the other hand, include high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, liver or colon, weakening of the immune system, mental health problems and alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence.

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