New Drinking Limits

I appeared on WCCO Television this morning to discuss some new alcohol drinking limits. The context was a Lancet study that will likely be incorporated into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s updated Dietary Guidelines

WCCO Television

Consistent with the Lancet study and traditional binge drinking definitions, my current advice regarding consumption is:

  • Men: Up to 7 drinks per week; no more than 4 drinks per occasion/sitting
  • Women: Up to 7 drinks per week; no more than 3 drinks per occasion/sitting

Key caveat: These recommendations are for people without a history of addiction. Those with a history of addiction should abstain from alcohol.

Many thanks to Sarah Jackson with Media Minefield for her partnership on this timely and important subject! ✸

Sober Curious

I’m scheduled to appear on MPR News with Angela Davis this Friday, January 17th, at 11 a.m. I’ll be representing Allina Health in a live discussion about the sober curious movement (and here, here and here).

Peder Schweigert, the general manager of Marvel Bar, will also be in studio. He’s been a bartender for 15 years and about four years ago decided to stop drinking alcohol.

I’m occasionally asked if I have a personal history of addiction. I don’t but stopped drinking by my mid-30s before sober curious was a thing (I’m currently a week short of 50, so I’ve been “dry” for at least 15 years).

Some sober curious factoids appear below.

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“Would I be happier without booze? More productive? Would I feel more confident? What would it be like to never have to face another deadline half hungover? Would I be thinner if I didn’t drink? Look younger? Would I have less sex? More sex? Would the sex be better? Would I have anything to talk about at parties? Where would the glamour go? Would people think I was boring? Exactly how boring would I/life become? … I have termed this questioning as getting Sober Curious

  • Low-risk use: Consumption of alcohol or other drugs below the amount identified as hazardous, and use in circumstances not defined as hazardous
  • Hazardous use: Use that increases the risk for health consequences
  • Harmful use: Use with health consequences in the absence of addiction
  • Addiction: As per criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

According to the USDA, “If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.” I think that recommendation is okay for women, however, the number should be one drink per day for men. Of note, “The level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero”

  • One U.S. Standard Drink contains 14 grams of alcohol. Examples include a 12-ounce can of beer, 5-ounce glass of table wine and 1.5 ounces of a distilled spirit like vodka
  • Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram. In contrast, carbohydrates (fiber, starch, sugar) and protein provide 4 calories, and fat 9
  • One 12-ounce bottle of beer provides 145 calories: 98 from alcohol and the rest from carbohydrates and protein

Drinking frequency (e.g., days per week) and intensity (e.g., drinks per day) has a “very small positive and marginally statistically significant effect” on body weight in men. There appears to be no relationship between alcohol consumption and body weight in women

Multiple studies have demonstrated that consuming alcohol in the evening “enhance[s] sleep onset but decrease[s] sleep continuity during the second half of the sleep period

“The available scientific research indicates that higher amounts of alcohol intake have an immediate short-term negative impact on the arousal and orgasm phases of the human sexual response cycle”

“Hangover symptoms are not just physical; they are cognitive as well. People with hangovers show delayed reaction times and difficulties with attention, concentration, and visual-spatial perception.” Veisalgia—the medical term for hangover—can be traced back to kvies (Norwegian), the “uneasiness following debauchery.” “Hangover is common and underdiagnosed and can have serious physical, psychiatric, and occupational consequences