A Review of Current Dietary Guidelines Concerning Alcohol Consumption
Dietary guidelines for alcohol consumption have become tougher according to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Department of Health and Human Services. Since the last update in 1995, the new 2010 guidelines tighten down on the definition and the benefits of alcohol in moderation. Below is a review of the highlights from the current Guidelines. Consumption of alcohol increases the risks of many chronic diseases. Alcohol adds calories but little to no nutritional value to the diet. Alcohol in moderation is one drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men. A drink is defined as one 12 ounce beer, one 5 ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of spirits (80 proof). Drinking in moderation may provide health benefits such as reduced cardiovascular disease and aiding cognitive function in older adults. 6. However, even moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, violence, injuries from falls, and driving accidents. Approximately 79,000 deaths in the U.S. every year are associated with drinking with more than half of those linked to binge drinking. Excessive drinking can severely impact a person’s health including but not limited to “cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and colon, injury, and violence.” Long term excessive drinking can also impair cognitive function and memory. 10. Excessive drinking is more than three drinks a day or more than seven a week for women and more than four a day or more than fourteen a week for men. Women should abstain from drinking during pregnancy. Drinking during pregnancy (no safe levels have been established) can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Drinking at an early age can increase the risk of addiction later in life. According to the Department, 5 in 10 adult Americans drink regularly. Of those who drink, 29 percent reported episodes of binge drinking. Binge drinking is the consumption of four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men within two hours.
The Guidelines recommend that regular drinkers watch their alcohol intake and keep it within moderation. Further, the Guidelines recommend that individuals who are not drinkers do not begin drinking merely for some perceived health benefit. Sources U.S. Department of Agriculture; Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Washington, DC: Government Printing Ofiice.