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Dietary Guidelines and Alcohol

Includes Stronger Warnings Concerning Alcohol Consumption


Updated October 25, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans with a revised, tougher view of alcohol consumption.

Much of the language concerning drinking alcohol was changed from the same Guidelines published in 1995, which was a victory for several advocacy groups which were pushing tougher guidelines.

The new guidelines eliminate previous gratuitous language about the use of alcohol to enhance the enjoyment of meals and gives stronger warnings concerning alcohol consumption. Here are some of the references to alcohol that were added, changed or enhanced since the 1995 Dietary Guildelines were issued:

  • Moderate consumption provides little, if any, health benefit for younger people.

  • Risk of alcohol abuse increases when drinking starts at an early age.

  • Moderation is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. This limit is based on differences between the sexes in both weight and metabolism.

  • Alcoholic beverages are harmful when consumed in excess.

  • Excess alcohol alters judgement and can lead to dependency and a great many other serious health problems.

  • Taking more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men can raise the risk for auto accidents, other accidents, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide, birth defects, and certain cancers.

  • Even one drink per day can slightly raise the risk of breast cancer.

  • Who should not drink? Women who may become pregnant or who are pregnant. A safe level of alcohol intake has not been established for women at any time during pregnancy, including the first few weeks.

  • If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly. Limit intake to one drink per day for women or two drink per day for men, and take with meals to slow alcohol absorption. Avoid drinking before or when driving, or whenever it puts you or others at risk.

The tougher language in the Dietary Guidelines follows a newly released U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report that listed alcohol as a known human carcinogen for the first time.

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