Everything You Need to Know About Canada’s New Alcohol Guidelines
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

How much alcohol is safe and healthy to drink?

Written by Liana Greenshields, Student in the Dietetics Specialization program at the University of Alberta and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team. 

Canada's New Drinking Guidelines

Why did the alcohol consumption guidelines change? 

It used to be said that consuming up to 2-3 alcoholic beverages per day was the limit, but with new evidence on the significance of alcohol-related mortality, disease risk, and social harms, Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) is sharing with Canadians that alcohol use comes with risks. This evidence-based report suggests reducing alcohol intake and that no amount of alcohol is good for your health. The guidelines suggest if you choose to drink alcohol, you should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks at one time and understand that consuming 3-6 drinks per week can increase the risk of developing cancer (including breast and colon cancer), and that 7 or more drinks per week can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

In our Dietitian practice, we know that some of our clients will continue to drink alcohol and we will encourage them to do so responsibly within the amounts recommended in the report. It is also important to note that alcohol can disrupt sleep, blood sugar levels, and diabetes control and can also cause negative digestive symptoms, especially for individuals with IBS and other digestive health issues. Alcohol can also trigger menopause hot flashes and be a huge challenge for individuals struggling with mental health and taking medication. While some research does not support the connection between alcohol stimulating appetite and triggering consuming more food, for many of our clients we do see a connection that consuming alcohol can sometimes lead to less focus on choosing healthy choices and more cravings for sweet and savoury food.  Some research also suggests consuming an excessive amount of alcohol may negatively influence our sensitivity to the overall taste of food leading to less pleasure in eating.

Do drinking recommendations vary between men and women? 

Traditionally, drinking recommendations have varied between men and women. However, the new guidelines suggest that at low levels of consumption, both males and females can experience harm. It is important to note that the health risks increase more steeply for women drinking a large amount of alcohol than for men. Also, it is important to note that research has shown that men are more likely to take other risks and when combined with alcohol, this can lead to physical harm, violence, injuries, and death. 

If you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, no amount of alcohol is safe to consume given alcohol can cause abnormalities and birth defects and lead to lifelong negative learning, health, and social effects. For breastfeeding moms, it is important to note that alcohol passes through breastmilk within 30-60 minutes of drinking and can influence infant sleep patterns, decrease milk supply and lead to an end to breastfeeding. It is therefore said that no alcohol is safe in breastfeeding given an infant is less able to metabolize alcohol. 

What role does alcohol play in cancer risk? 

Decades ago, alcohol was declared a Group 1 carcinogen. Several newer studies have found similar findings that significant alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. The body breaks down alcohol into a toxic chemical that can damage DNA and cells, causing the cells to grow and multiply out of control which can create a cancerous tumour.  

Aside from the health benefits, what other benefits may arise from Canada’s new alcohol guidelines? 

These changes may help prevent certain accidents and injuries caused by alcohol intoxication, such as motor vehicle collisions. They may also reduce incidents that may occur when intoxicated such as violent and impulsive behaviour, sexual assault, and slowed reaction time, as well as the dangers to mental health caused by chronic alcohol consumption, which may lead to depression, psychosis, anxiety, and antisocial behaviour. 

What effect does drinking have on people emotionally and physically? 

Emotionally, long-term consumption of alcohol can cause difficulty with relationships, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and depression. Physically, alcohol intoxication can cause people to make rash decisions which can cause injury to themselves or others. Alcohol can also lead to weight gain as it usually contributes to extra calories (7 calories per gram of alcohol) with little nutritional benefit and may contain lots of sugar (if pop, juice, or sweetened ingredients are mixed with the alcohol). 

Will Canada’s new alcohol guidelines play a role in changing drinking habits, shifting towards a more open and accepted support of choosing non-alcoholic options? 

Many Canadians enjoy an alcoholic beverage every evening with dinner or on the weekend with friends, so these new guidelines may be hard to accept for some people. That being said, it may take more than these guidelines to make a significant impact on people’s drinking habits, such as the addition of warning labels on alcoholic beverages which will be implemented in Ireland in 2026 

I’m hopeful that Canadians will limit their alcohol consumption after the release of the new CCSA guidelines. We’re already seeing a rising number of people especially the younger generation adopting “teetotalism”, which is full alcohol abstinence. As for other generations, the trending non-alcoholic drinking scene is growing. We’re seeing fancier mocktail offerings and non-alcoholic beers and spirits with added herbs that can be enjoyed around friends and family without the risks. 

All in all, these new guidelines are a good first step in informing the public about the dangers of alcohol to our health and may be the beginning of a decline in consumption in the years to come. 

Looking for further support in making lifestyle changes? Our Dietitians can help!  

Unsure where to start or feeling stuck on the way? Get connected with one of our dietitians who can support you on your nutrition journey. We have a team of experienced dietitians who are passionate about coming alongside you and finding personalized solutions to your nutrition challenges. 

Learn more about our nutrition counselling services or contact us directly below to see how we can assist you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As seen in


Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This