Let’s Limit Alcohol

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The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) keeps the recommendation for no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men even though the scientific committee report notes that research suggests drinking within these limits may increase the risk for some types of cancers and overall risk of death.

One positive is that the new DGA clarify that these alcohol limits apply to each day when alcohol is consumed; previously it was unclear if you could save up alcohol during the week and binge on the weekend.

One alcoholic drink is equivalent to 12 fluid ounces of 5% alcohol by volume for beer; 5 fluid ounces of 12% alcohol by volume for wine, or 1.4 fluid ounces (a typical shot) of 80 proof distilled spirits like vodka or gin.

The scientific committee recommended limiting alcohol to up to 1 drink per day for both men and women to reduce health risk.

Why this is important: High average consumption of alcohol is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. Alcohol is recognized as a carcinogen by both the World Health Organization and the US government, and is associated with at least 7 types of cancer, and a range of gastrointestinal conditions including pancreatitis, gastritis, liver disease and peptic ulcer. Alcohol is a contributor to a variety of social and mental health problems including depression, child abuse, fetal alcohol disorder, car crashes, domestic violence and sexual assault. Alcohol has no nutritional value and can replace foods and beverages that provide essential vitamins and minerals.

What you can do:

  • Limit your alcohol to at most 1 drink per day.
  • Enjoy non-alcoholic, unsweetened beverages on most days of the week.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC


    1. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report  
    2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf 
    3. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Dietary Guidelines Drops Expert Panel’s Added Sugars Recommendation. Statement of CSPI Policy Associate Jessi Silverman.  https://cspinet.org/news/dietary-guidelines-drops-expert-panel%E2%80%99s-added-sugars-recommendation-20201229  published 12-29-2020. Accessed 2-10-2021.
    4. The Washington Post. How the Trump Administration Limited the Scope of the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines. Laura Reiley. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/08/30/how-trump-administration-limited-scope-usdas-dietary-guidelines/  published 8-30-29. Accessed 2-20-21
    5. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. 2015 Dietary Guidelines will not Include a Focus on Sustainability. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/10/08/2015-dietary-guidelines-will-not-include-a-focus-on-sustainability/  published 10-8-2015. Accessed 2-20-21
    6. American Heart Association. Processed vs Ultra-processed Food and Why It Matters to Your Health. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/01/29/processed-vs-ultra-processed-food-and-why-it-matters-to-your-health  published 1-29-20; accessed 2-20-21
    7. Red and Processed Meats and Health Risks: How Strong Is the Evidence?Frank Qian, Matthew C. Riddle, Judith Wylie-Rosett, Frank B. Hu. Diabetes Care Feb 2020, 43 (2) 265-271; DOI: 10.2337/dci19-0063
    8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Chronic Diseases. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm  last reviewed 1-12-21; accessed 2-20-21
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