The 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advice on Alcohol:
If Alcohol is Consumed, it Should be in Moderation
WASHINGTON, DC —The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued today by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), includes its longstanding dietary guidance on beverage alcohol consumption: If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation.
“The Dietary Guidelines’ overarching advice for alcohol consumption has remained the same since its inception in 1980 – if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation, and only by adults of legal drinking age,” said Distilled Spirits Council Science Advisor Dr. Sam Zakhari, a renowned alcohol researcher with more than 40 years’ experience studying alcohol and health including 26 years at the National Institutes of Health.
The 2020 Guidelines on alcoholic beverages state, “Adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. There are some adults who should not drink alcohol, such as women who are pregnant.”
“The distilled spirits industry strongly supports the Dietary Guidelines as an important source of evidence-based information for healthcare professionals and for American adults who choose to consume alcohol,” Dr. Zakhari added.
Dr. Zakhari noted that the 2020 Guidelines provide useful and practical information to assist adult consumers in making responsible drinking decisions including the definitions for moderate drinking and standard “drink-equivalents.”
The Guidelines reaffirm the definition of moderate drinking for adults of legal drinking age as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, which is underpinned by science and has been a cornerstone of the alcohol guideline for three decades. USDA and HHS stated that the Guidelines did not include changes to quantitative recommendations for moderate drinking noting that “there was not a preponderance of evidence in the material the committee reviewed to support specific changes, as required by law.”
The alcohol guideline also conveys information on the definition of standard drink-equivalents: 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% ABV), 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV) and 12 ounces of regular beer (5% ABV). The Guidelines point out that each of these standard drinks contain 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol.
“In keeping with the longstanding dietary science, the Guidelines make clear that a standard drink-equivalent of beer, wine and distilled spirits each contains the same amount of alcohol,” said Dr. Zakhari. “This scientific fact is a critical aspect of responsible drinking, and a key component of alcohol education materials utilized by the public health community, leading federal agencies on alcohol matters, and state education authorities.”
Importantly, the Guidelines outline potential health risks associated with alcohol consumption and identify individuals who should not drink beverage alcohol. These individuals include those who are pregnant or might be pregnant; under the legal age for drinking; have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol; are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink; plan to drive or take part in other activities that require skill, coordination and alertness.
Over the decades, DISCUS has distributed several thousand copies of the alcohol guideline to physicians, nutritionists and other health professionals. The Council will continue to do its part to help disseminate this important resource.
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, which jointly release the Guidelines every five years, encourage healthy eating patterns to prevent chronic diseases. By law, the Dietary Guidelines serve as the basis for federal nutrition policy in the United States. The nutrition recommendations serve to provide the American public, policymakers and health professionals with the information they need to make healthy choices in their daily living, including moderate alcohol consumption.