A new report published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) says alcohol consumption in even small quantities can be harmful. The review follows two years of research and a review of more than 5,000 peer-reviewed studies, and suggests that Canadians should stick to a maximum of two drinks per week in order to reduce their risk of negative health consequences.
Canada’s newly proposed guidelines for alcohol consumption replace the old ones from 2011 which were also created by the CCSA, saying men should limit their alcohol consumption to no more than three drinks per day and 15 drinks per week, while women should stick with a maximum of two drinks per day and 10 drinks per week.
However, the new findings suggest that even three to six drinks a week can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer or colon cancer, while more than seven drinks per week can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
"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," the report states.
"The risk of negative outcomes begins to increase with any consumption, and with more than two standard drinks, most individuals will have an increased risk of injuries or other problems," is the central statement of the report.
Under these guidelines, "one drink" is defined as 12 oz. (0.35ml) of beer with 5 per cent alcohol, 5 oz. (0.15ml) of wine with 12 per cent alcohol, or 1.5 oz. (0,044ml) of hard liquor with 40 per cent alcohol.
Critics to the study, like Dan Malleck, Professor of Health Sciences and expert on the history of liquor laws in Canada at Brock University, says the study offers a “distorted view” of alcohol’s health impacts.
“Talking about ‘increased risk’ can be misleading when there’s no balance presented between risk and likelihood,” says Mallek. If, for example, a non-drinker has a one in 100,000 chance of contracting a disease, and a drinker has a two in 100,000 chance, that’s a 100 per cent increase in risk, which “sounds pretty dire,” he says. However, the likelihood of getting that disease is still only 0.002 per cent.