Ottawa urged to label alcohol due to increased health risks

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To be at low risk of suffering from negative, acute and/or long-term health problems related to alcohol consumption, the CCSA report states that a person should consume, on average, zero to two standard drinks per week.

According to a new report highlighting the health risks of even moderate alcohol consumption.

The report, released Monday by the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), reviewed several studies and said they showed strong links between moderate to heavy alcohol consumption and certain life-threatening diseases, including cardiovascular disease and a number of cancers.

The centre, which advises parliament on how to tackle addiction, also recommends mandatory labeling of alcoholic beverages showing portion sizes for safe consumption.

“We are issuing a recommendation that we share with Canadians a continuum of risks associated with different amounts of alcohol,” said Catherine Paradis, Acting Deputy Director of Research at CCSA. The report is open for public consultation until September 23.

Dr. Paradis explained that the suggested labeling aims to indicate exactly how much alcohol a given drink contains.

Around the world, a standard drink is defined as a unit containing 8 to 20 grams of alcohol, or about half a shot for a drink and half for a whiskey. In Canada, a standard drink contains 13.45 g of alcohol, the amount contained in a 30 milliliter glass of hard liquor or a 354 ml bottle of 5% beer.

According to the CCSA report, to be at low risk of suffering from negative, acute and/or long-term health problems related to alcohol consumption, a person should consume, on average, zero to two standard drinks per week. . As the consumption increases from there, the potential negative results also increase. Three to six drinks a week puts a person at moderate risk of negative health effects. Six or more standard drinks per week put a person at high risk.

These numbers change slightly depending on body weight and physiology. While men and women showed no overall difference in premature death, men are able to consume more beverages on average than women before experiencing other serious health conditions, including liver damage.

High-risk alcohol consumption among women also has serious effects on reproductive health. Public health experts have advised against alcohol consumption during pregnancy for decades, as the adverse effects of fetal exposure include brain damage, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Additionally, recent research shows that moderate to high risk alcohol consumption can affect a woman’s overall fertility and ovulation cycle, potentially complicating the ability to become pregnant.

“The whole philosophy behind this project is that people have a right to know and to make informed decisions,” said Dr. Paradis, who adds that the label recommendations are not intended to deter people from drinking.

“It wasn’t so much whether the label works or not, but if you want to count your drinks, you need to know how many drinks or how many standard drinks are in a specific container of alcohol.”

Some research highlighted in the report has shown that labels have a deterrent effect on high-risk drinking. A study in Whitehorse, Yukon, which surveyed more than 2,000 people who visited a single liquor store where liquor products bore standard drink labels and a cancer warning, found that liquor sales tagged had fallen by 6.6%. Other studies have shown that health labels on alcohol lead to a 10% increase in the ability to remember cancer risks and a 50% increase in the ability to remember low-risk drinking guidelines. among consumers.

Alcohol consumption in Canada is associated with high health and economic costs. In 2017, according to the CCSA report, alcohol contributed to 18,000 deaths in Canada and that same year, $5.4 billion was spent on alcohol-related healthcare.

Although CCSA’s report examines the role of alcohol in issues such as domestic violence, one area that Dr. Paradis says remains unresolved is how to address its relationship to mental health, which she is misunderstood.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to find evidence that met the very high quality criteria we set for this project,” Dr Paradis said, noting that Australia faced a similar problem when of the revision of its alcohol guidelines in 2016.

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According to a 2020 report from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHRCA), a systematic review of research found “no reliable evidence” to support a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and nearly all health problems. mental health, with “limited evidence of association” between alcohol consumption and worsening of bipolar disorder.

The CCSA and NHRCA said they give low marks to the state of research on the topic, as most studies were limited in scope, difficult to interpret, or based on low-quality data collection. Dr Paradis said some research would compare non-drinkers and drinkers, but include former drinkers who were abstinent at the time of data collection in the non-drinker category, confusing the results.

“It is certainly a next step for the scientific community, to continue to refine our methodologies and studies on the association between alcohol and mental health, so that in future guidelines can also take into account take this very important dimension into account,” said Dr Paradis. said.

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