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Part of responsible drinking is understanding that a standard drink of beer, distilled spirits and wine each contains the same amount of alcohol. It's not what you drink, it's how much that counts.

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New Federal Dietary Guidelines: The Role Alcohol Can Play in a Healthy Adult Lifestyle

February 23, 2011 05:00 PM


Guidelines Advisor Reports on Alcohol and Health at Distilled Spirits Council-Sponsored Briefing

New York – The Distilled Spirits Council sponsored a media alcohol and health briefing yesterday showcasing the role alcohol can play in a healthy adult lifestyle, as contained in the recently released federal Dietary Guidelines.  The event featured Dietary Guidelines Advisory member Dr. Eric Rimm of Harvard Medical School.

“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,” Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School who served as a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Member.  “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.”

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

More than 30 media attended the event including health and nutrition writers and television producers from leading media outlets such as Time, Health, WebMD, Good Morning America, the CBS Early Show, Shape, Self, Weight Watchers, Prevention, Men's Health and Family Circle.

Registered dietitian Suzanne Vieira, Chair of Culinary Nutrition at Johnson & Wales University, also spoke discussing the Dietary Guidelines’ definition of moderate drinking for men and women and the importance of understanding the definition of a standard drink. 

She presented information on the calorie content for different types of beverage alcohol; demonstrated how to reduce the calories in cocktails using a variety of low-calorie mixers; and offered ideas for interesting food and spirits pairings.  The event, held at New York’s Rouge Tomate, featured sample food and spirits pairings.

Dr. Monica Gourovitch, Senior Vice President of Scientific Affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council, stated, “According to the Dietary Guidelines, if one chooses to drink, moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy adult diet.  As with all things, moderation and responsibility are key.”

During their remarks, the presenters addressed the following topics:

◦An overview of the newly-revised 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the science underlying the alcohol guideline.  The Guidelines, released jointly every five years by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), serve as the basis for nutrition policy in the United States.

◦According to the Guidelines, “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.”

◦The 2010 Guidelines define moderate drinking as consuming up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. 

◦The Guidelines define a standard drink 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.

Gourovitch underscored that America’s distillers do not recommend that people drink alcohol for potential health benefits.   Alcohol abuse can cause serious health and other problems and even drinking in moderation may pose health risks.  Some individuals should not drink at all, she said.

Yesterday’s media briefing is one of many outreach efforts by the Distilled Spirits Council to disseminate the Dietary Guidelines.  Since the release of the 2000 Guidelines, the Council has distributed several thousand copies of the Alcohol Guideline to physicians, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals.  In recognition of these outreach efforts, the Distilled Spirits Council was selected by USDA in 2008 as a corporate partner for promoting moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol.



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