Dietary Guidelines for drinking unveiled

NEW YORK -- By now, most of us are used to seeing eating guidelines for healthy lifestyles disseminated by various organizations. But, aside from the occasional study linking wine and cardiac health, we don't see many drinking dietary guidelines.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) filled that void with a health briefing on Wednesday, showcasing the role alcohol can play in a healthy adult lifestyle, as contained in the recently released federal Dietary Guidelines.

“A large body of scientific evidence suggests that alcohol can be part of a healthy adult lifestyle, but this must be balanced with the known detrimental effects of excessive consumption,” said Dr. Eric B. Rimm, the associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who served as a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. “The bottom line is the dietary guidelines note the importance of sensible lifestyle choices -- including moderate alcohol consumption -- which can lower the risk of chronic disease.”

He emphasized that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. He also said it may help to keep cognitive function intact with age, which was added in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines on alcohol.

Among highlights of the guidelines, released jointly every five years by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS):

• The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects, depending on the amount consumed, age and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol.

• Moderate drinking is defined as consuming up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

• A standard drink is defined as 1.5 ounces of 80 proof (40% alcohol) distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 12 ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol). Each of these standard drinks contains 0.6 ounces of alcohol.

• Moderate evidence suggests that moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages is not associated with weight gain.

• The potential risks and benefits associated with alcohol consumption are the same for beer, wine or distilled spirits.

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