Dr. George Koob, the president’s health czar said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could revise its alcohol advice to match Canada’s where people are advised to have only two drinks per week. Koob admits to enjoying a couple of glasses of chardonnay per week and said he is watching Canada’s “big experiment” with interest.
“If there’s health benefits, I think people will start to re-evaluate where we’re at [in the U.S.],” he said.
Current U.S. recommendations say a woman can have a small glass of wine, a shot of spirit or up to one bottle of beer per day, while men can have two. However, those guidelines are up for review in 2025.
Per guidelines, a drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol — equivalent to one beer — one shot, or one glass of wine at 12 percent alcohol.
When asked what directions the guidelines could change, Koob said the director for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), said, “I mean, they’re not going to go up, I’m pretty sure.”
“So, if [alcohol consumption guidelines] go in any direction, it would be toward Canada.”
The guidelines are currently under review, although the new updates may not be published until the end of 2025.
The debate about whether alcohol is good in limited amounts has been around for several decades, but increasingly, studies show that even tiny amounts can harm your health.
A major June study warned that drinking any amount of alcohol raises the risk of someone suffering from 60 diseases, including 33 that hadn’t been linked before to alcohol.
Cancer, strokes and liver cirrhosis — scarring from long-term, continuous liver damage — are well-established risks of excessive drinking.
However, the study, which Oxford University led, analyzed data from half a million men living in China also drew links to additional conditions like cataracts and gout.
Koob said there are “no benefits” to drinking alcohol regarding physical health.
“Most of the benefits people attribute to alcohol, we feel they really have more to do with what someone’s eating rather than what they’re drinking,” he said.
“So, it really has to do with the Mediterranean diet, socio-economic status, that makes you able to afford that kind of diet and make your own fresh food and so forth,” said Koob. “With this in mind, most benefits kind of disappear on the health side.”
However, he did give ground to some social benefits, describing alcohol as a “social lubricant.”
Dr. Koob said he consumes about two glasses of white wine weekly, usually a “buttery Californian chardonnay.”
Canadian health officials admit new rules were a “bit shocking” when they were announced
Canadian health chiefs admitted that their new rules may be a “bit shocking” when they were announced earlier in the year.
The review process for 2025 to 2030’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, has already begun, although the final version might not be published until the end of 2025. America has recommended a safe limit of one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men since the 1990s.
In the past, studies suggested some benefits to drinking, with resveratrol in red wine linked to a lowered risk of cancer and improved heart health.
More recently, the research has swung the other way, warning even consuming a small amount of alcohol is dangerous to health.
In a 2020 report from a federal committee of experts, Americans were warned that drinking raised cancer risk and said limits should be slashed to only one beverage per day. In addition, a 2021 report from the American Cancer Society warned alcohol was behind as many as one in 20 cancer cases in the country, or 25,000 annually.
The report found alcohol raised the risk of both rarer cancers, including of the throat, and more common ones like breast cancer — the most common cancer in women.
More recent research that involved 370,000 people warned that drinking more led to a 1.4-fold rise in the risk of a person’s heart disease.
Leading authorities including the World Health Organization have seized on studies to warn that drinking even a tiny amount of alcohol puts someone’s health in danger.
The growing body of evidence, along with their own analysis of 6,000 studies, convinced health chiefs in Canada to overturn their alcohol guidelines in favor of up to two drinks per week earlier this year.
Previously, they suggested women could have as many as ten drinks per week while men could have 15, which is similar to the limits set in the U.S.
However, the move rapidly came under criticism from some, who accused authorities of “ignoring” the benefits of drinking — including how it can help combat loneliness and social situations.
Dr. Dan Malleck, a health sciences expert at Brock University in Canada, said, “Alcohol infuses many lives in positive ways. We celebrate accomplishments, mark occasions, bring wine to parties, meeting with friends, commiserate, relax, blow off steam…these are important activities, and part of the texture and tone of many lives.”
Previously, experts have argued studies into the risks of alcohol are flawed because they fail to examine those social benefits.