Headline: It’s hardly a secret that people have been drinking during the pandemic. Between a pervasive aura of dread and a lockdown that left us with almost nothing better to do, Nielsen data shows at-home alcohol sales are up significantly from the beginning of March through August 1.
While that’s great news for breweries and distilleries in need of a lifeline, those increased sales would seem to clash with new, stricter federal guidelines about how much men should drink.
According to revised recommendations contained in the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, men should now apparently limit their alcohol consumption to one drink per day. That’s in line with the existing one drink per day recommended limit for women, lowering from the two drinks per day limit previously advised for men.
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The downward revision of how much men should drink takes into consideration alcohol’s effects on all causes of death. In essence, scientific reporting mentioned by the Wall Street Journal shows that mortality risks start to rise after half a drink a day, at which point any moderate gains for heart health are wiped out. There’s also a greater body of research on the relationship between alcohol and cancer risk these days, showing that alcohol does more harm than good in that regard.
Simultaneously, the validity of prior studies suggesting drinking can offer certain health benefits has been called into question. In at least one study that linked moderate drinking with lower cardiovascular disease, the significant number of participants who ate a mediterranean diet might have confounded the variables and led researchers to misattribute the benefits of the diet to alcohol.
Just as the updated alcohol recommendation incorporates the latest science, it also hopes to reshape America’s relationship with alcohol at a time when drinking is up. Data from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that drinking has increased by 8% in America over the last 20 years, and the report itself notes a rise in binge drinking as well. The more stringent restrictions on “healthy” levels of alcohol consumption for men could have the effect of nudging persuadable drinkers in the right direction.
It’s hard to say how people will react to these recommended changes, and they’re (thankfully) not legally binding. There are obviously also other costs and benefits to weigh when it comes to drinking, especially given the toxic combination of boredom and stress that defines the current moment. Still, it couldn’t hurt to drink a little bit less—as long as you give yourself a little room to take a moderate approach to your moderation when the situation calls for it.
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