What Is ‘Moderate Drinking’? Feds Change The Definition

By Neat Pour Staff |

Moderate drinking is important, but what is ‘moderate drinking’? Until recently, the term meant “two or less [alcoholic] drinks a day”. However, the U.S. government is looking to change to lower that bar to one drink daily—and the alcohol industry is not happy.

In 1980, the feds first issued Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) every five years. The report was created by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The document typically contains standard nutritional and dietary guidelines—as well as tips on alcohol consumption. The just released, 2020 draft edition of the DGA closely resembled the 2015 version except for some big changes to the booze section.

For starters, the DGAC omitted previous mentions of both the positive and negative effects of moderate consumption. The Guide no longer mentions neither cardiovascular benefits of drinking nor associated cancer risks. Both effects were long debated by experts.

More significantly, the draft DGA changed the very definition of “moderate drinking”. A drink is still defined as five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or one and a half ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. However, moderate is now explained as only of these drinks daily.

Needless to say, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) was unhappy with the change. Today, DISCUS Chief Scientific Advisor Sam Zakhari, Ph.D sent a letter to the USDA and HHS protesting the change.

“DISCUS supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) as an important source of helpful and practical information for healthcare professionals and for adult Americans who choose to consume alcohol,” Zakhari wrote. 

“However, the 2020 DGAC Report reflects serious methodological and analytical flaws that undermine the scientific rigor and objectivity of its conclusions on alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality.  In particular, the 2020 DGAC proposal to change the U.S. definition of moderate drinking deviates significantly and unjustifiably from long-standing, evidence-based U.S. dietary guidelines and contradicts decades of independent research findings.”

The DiSCUS letter also criticizes the DGA for violating their own review process, sloppy citations, misrepresentation of information and exceeding their purview.

Drinkers will have to wait a few weeks to see if the government responds to their critique during this open comment period, but historically the public feedback segment is little more than a formality.

Read the letter here.

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