Men should limit alcohol intake to one drink a day for better health, federal committee advises

A federal committee is working to tighten its nutritional guidelines, and now suggests limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day for men, down from two.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is made up of experts who collaborate to release updated nutritional guidelines every five years based on current studies to guide federal food, nutrition and health policies and programs.

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Aside from tightened alcohol intake, the advisory committee also recommends a lower intake of added sugar than previously advised. While prior guidelines recommended no more than 10 percent of calories come from added sugars, the 2020 committee suggests a limit of 6 percent of calories from added sugars.

A federal committee is tightening recommendations on alcohol intake to one drink each day for men. The advice would remain unchanged for women, at one drink daily. (iStock)

A federal committee is tightening recommendations on alcohol intake to one drink each day for men. The advice would remain unchanged for women, at one drink daily. (iStock)

The committee’s draft for the 2020-2025 edition of Dietary Guidelines is said to come out this year, and they held a webinar on June 17.

Committee member Dr. Timothy Naimi, alcohol epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center and professor with the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, discussed recent evidence as justification for tightening guidelines

“Consuming two drinks per day among men is associated with a modest but meaningful increase in all-cause mortality risk compared to one drink per day based on observational data,” Naimi said during the webinar.

The previous consumption limits recommended for men and women, 2 and 1 daily, respectively, have been in place since 1990, Naimi said, and were based on early, theoretical analyses, such as the difference in body mass between sexes. However, different recommendations for men and women aren’t supported anymore because the risk difference is small at lower levels of alcohol consumption, Naimi explained.

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He added that the risk of low volume alcohol consumption for all-cause mortality may have been underestimated previously. The upcoming edition of recommendations will advise the public, for those who do drink alcohol, that drinking less is generally better for health than drinking more.

“For those who drink alcohol, recommended limits for better health are up to one drink per day for both women and men,” he said. Apart from energy derived from calories, ethanol has no nutritional value and the preponderance of evidence finds that all-cause mortality risks increase at levels above one drink per day on average for both men and women, the committee member said.

A repeated message during Naimi’s presentation was that the proposed updated recommendations in no way advise initiating alcohol consumption for people who don’t currently drink.

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