Over the weekend, numerous news outlets reported that President Joe Biden will limit Americans to just two weekly beers. However, the titles are arguably a bit “misleading.”
The truth is that Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) George Koob told the Daily Mail last Thursday that the U.S. may follow Canada’s footsteps on alcohol guidelines. The key word here is “guidelines,” which is the same as the recommended serving size seen on the packaging for most foods.
No one is actually forced to a single serving of pie or ice cream, and the same will be true of beer or other spirits. Current U.S. guidelines for alcohol consumption recommend men limit themselves to two drinks per day, while women should only have one.
Those recommendations were already up for review in 2025 as part of the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans and could follow Canada’s guidelines that recommend just two drinks per week. Koob, who said he enjoyed buttery Californian chardonnays a couple of times a week, has been watching the “grand experiment” in Canada.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction recommended this past January that its citizens have no more than two drinks per week regardless of gender. The U.S.-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends that American men limit themselves to two drinks per day and women to one.
This doesn’t mean that Canadians are limited to just two drinks – beers or otherwise – a week. Again, it is just a recommendation. Koob added that there were “no benefits” to physical health from drinking alcohol, and for those reasons, the alcohol consumption recommendations are “not going to go up.”
“So, if [alcohol consumption guidelines] go in any direction, it would be toward Canada,” Koob said. “Most of the benefits people attribute to alcohol, we feel they really have more to do with what someone’s eating rather than what they’re drinking.”
In April, a study from NIAAA found that the average American consumed 2.51 gallons of ethanol – the alcohol found in beer and wine, in 2021, a statistic nearly as high as it was during the Civil War era.
The recommendations – which legally do not need to be followed – did not sit well with the trade association that represents the producers of alcoholic beverages.
“Dr. Koob’s comments calling for a drastic change to the federal recommendations on alcohol before the review of alcohol research has even begun undermines the scientific rigor and objectivity of the entire Dietary Guidelines process,” Distilled Spirits Council Vice President of Science and Health Amanda Berger, Ph.D. said via a statement.
“It is extremely alarming and inappropriate for a federal official to predetermine the outcome of the Dietary Guidelines and suggest changing decades of precedent without the benefit of the scientific review to support such a sweeping move,” Berger added.
The amount of “safe” alcohol consumption has been hotly debated. The World Health Organization warns consuming any amount of alcohol damages an individual’s health, while its International Agency for Research on Cancer arm has suggested alcohol consumption can increase the risk of cancer.