How Much Alcohol Is Unhealthy?

Remember when government guidelines stated that men should limit their alcohol intake to two drinks a day or less and women one drink a day or less? Now updated research has challenged this view and new recommendations have been given.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans still give the same recommendation but note that “emerging evidence suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death from various causes.” The CDC now states that even low amounts of alcohol (less than 1 drink a day) increase the risk for cancer. In addition, past research suggested moderate alcohol intake reduced heart disease risk while newer studies do not show this protective effect.

In comparison, recent Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report states that consumption of 1 to 2 standard drinks per week one will likely avoid alcohol-related consequences; 3 to 6 standard drinks per week puts one at risk for developing several different types of cancer, and 7 or more standard drinks per week increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.


Standard drink sizes

  • A bottle of beer (12 ounces, 5% alcohol)
  • A bottle of cider (12 ounces, 5% alcohol)
  • A glass of wine (5 ounces, 12% alcohol)
  • A shot glass of spirits (1.5 ounces, 40% alcohol or 80 proof)



If you have a history of cancer or heart disease, a strong family history of these diseases, or other health conditions, consider consuming no more than two drinks of alcohol a week. Obviously, if you have any history of substance abuse, especially alcohol, do not consume any alcohol.


Dr. Mark Stengler NMD, MS, is a bestselling author in private practice in Encinitas, California, at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine. His newsletter, Dr. Stengler’s Health Breakthroughs, is available at His clinic website is



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 19). Facts about moderate drinking. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.,days%20when%20alcohol%20is%20consumed

Paradis, C., Butt, P., Shield, K., Poole, N., Wells, S., Naimi, T., Sherk, A., & the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines Scientific Expert Panels. (2023). Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report. Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.