2 drinks a day could be too much

New draft guidelines from Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council has said that alcohol consumption per day could be no greater than 1.4 drinks per day. This is the first time that the organization has set limits to the amount that can be safely consumed per day. This means that adults should consume less than 10 “standard” alcohol drinks per week to avoid harmful effects on health. If a person drinks only once a week, maximum allowed number of drinks is four say the guidelines.

Image Credit: Andrey Cherkasov / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Andrey Cherkasov / Shutterstock

According to the council, three years of research has been put into these final guidelines. The experts write that keeping the number of drinks to less than 10 per week could reduce the risk of dying, injury or disease related to alcohol consumption to less than one in 100. They explain that alcohol consumption has been associated with cancer in several studies. There has been a controversy regarding the heart health benefits provided by consumption of one or two glasses of red wine in a day. This new report states that no amount of alcohol is good for health and also pregnant women and those under the age of 18 years should not drink at all. Breast feeding women should also avoid alcohol consumption says the new report.

The United States dietary guidelines recommend not more than one drink per day for females and not more than two drinks per day for males. The US guidelines state recommends drinks equal to around 350 ml of 5 percent beer, 150 ml of 12 percent wine and 45 ml of 40 percent spirits. The United Kingdom guidelines also recommend that both men and women should not consume more than 14 drinks per week (around six pints of 4 percent beer, six glasses of size 75 ml of 13 percent wine and 14 glasses of 25 ml with 40 percent whiskey). The UK recommendations also says that these drinks should be spread over the week and there should be drink-free days. The Australian guidelines thus refute the two drinks a day recommendation.

The draft report was published yesterday (16th of December 2019) by the National Health and Medical Research Council and is an update on the last guidelines that were published in 2009. This earlier recommendation had stated, “no more than two standard drinks” on any day or not more than 14 drinks per week. Adhering to this recommendation would reduce the risk of life time harm from alcohol, the previous recommendations had stated. “Drinking above this level increases this risk while drinking less frequently and drinking less on each occasion reduces this lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm,” the new guidelines state. Thus based on studies and review the weekly quota has been reduced to 10 or below.

Anne Kelso, the NHMRC chief executive, added that these guidelines were not telling Australians how much to drink”. She said, “We’re providing advice about the health risks from drinking alcohol so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives – for ourselves and for our children.” She said, “We are not saying this level completely eliminates risk. The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people, not drinking at all is the safest option.” Kelso added, “It’s 10 years since our last review of the guidelines and we now know more about the effects of alcohol. We know that alcohol continues to have significant direct health consequences for many Australians.”

The health records reveal that there are over 4,000 deaths per year in Australia that are directly or indirectly associated with alcohol consumption. In the year 2016 and 2017, there have been over 70,000 hospitalizations associated with alcohol consumption say experts.

Kate Conigrave, the chair of the NHMRC alcohol working committee and a professor of addiction medicine at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, warned that alcohol use is associated with several diseases including cancers. She said, “Young people in the emergency department with alcohol poisoning, having drunk so much they can’t keep themselves safe. Some at risk of their breathing stopping. I also see the smashed up faces, young and old.” She added, “On the other hand, I also see people who used to drink too much but who have now cut back or stopped. Their sleep has improved, their mood has improved, their blood pressure has returned to normal. So working out what amount of drinking is OK for health is so important.”

Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said, “If all Australians follow these guidelines, we won’t stop every alcohol-related death, but we will save thousands of lives, especially younger lives.”

  1. MAGICApp: Draft Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol
  2. Draft Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol [ Download PDF, 1.55 MB]
  3. ‘How to guide’ – accessing the draft guidelines in MAGICapp [Download PDF, 681 KB]
  4. Consultation questions [Download PDF, 147 KB]
Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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