Canada’s New Alcohol Guidelines Causes Discussions Among Professors and Students

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Canada’s new alcohol guidelines were released in January and they are sparking discussion among students and academics alike. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a report, Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health, which lays out health risks associated with alcohol consumption. 

The report determined that zero standard drinks per week is safest, and that two drinks per week is a low-risk consumption level, which they outline as “​​likely to avoid alcohol-related consequences”. Three to six drinks per week increases risks of developing certain types of cancer, and seven or more increases risk of heart disease and stroke.

Funded by Health Canada, the guidelines have resulted from a two-and-a-half year process that involved an analysis of recent alcohol- and health-related data and a review by experts of the more technical areas of the research. The new recommendations replace those offered in 2011 by the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines and defined the low-risk consumption level as no more than 15 drinks per week for men and 10 for women.

But the guidelines are not without critics. Last month, CBC News published an article outlining the nuances of the research, in which they interviewed experts who had concerns with the guidelines. 

In that article, Bob Burns, a retired doctor, suggested that important information is being left out, such as how risky it is to consume more than the low-risk threshold. “If it increases an already-low chance of a cancer, by 0.5, or one, or even five per cent, it would take thousands of cases to have any real significance. I believe that this is vital information to enable people to make informed choices,” he stated.

Also speaking to CBC, Brock University Professor in health sciences, Dan Malleck, argues that the way the report presents risk is overblown and engages in fearmongering. “If you’re creating anxiety and worry in people, you’re not really doing anyone any favours,” he said. 

Excalibur visited Timbers Lodge, a bar at York’s Keele campus, to ask patrons about their perspective. We spoke with Rob Dyba, a second-year student in the education program.

Dyba supports the new guidelines, stating, “It makes sense to me. We have labels on cigarettes because we know how bad they are, and labels on marijuana [products], so why not have labels on alcohol to challenge it — it’s a cultural thing.” 

But he also says his education and his family life influence him more than the new guidelines. 

“I have a kinesiology degree so I understand the importance of moving and nutrition,” says Dyba. “I also have a young family, so I might have a drink on the weekend but nothing crazy.

“If I’m with a group of people I’m still going to do what I’m going do, but now that I’m a little older, maybe on a Saturday when I’m by myself, I don’t have that beer that I might [have had before].”

If you need support with addiction or mental health issues, call ConnexOntario for a directory of resources: 1-866-531-2600, visit their website here, or download the ConnexGo App on Google Play or the App Store.

About the Author

By Hale Mahon

Health Editor


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