Low-Risk Drinking: How Much is Too Much?

Any amount of alcohol consumption can have risks for your health. In this video, Dr. Sophiya Benjamin talks about Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines from 2011, what a 'standard drink' is, and how following the guidelines can help to reduce both the short- and long-term risks of alcohol use.

Note, this video was recorded prior to January 2023 Canadian guideline update. The report titled Canada's Guidance on Alcohol and Health reflects the most recent data and methods that have evolved since the guidelines were released in 2011.


Learn the answers to the following questions:

  • What were Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (2011)?
  • What is a 'standard drink'?
  • How does alcohol affect us as we age?
  • What are the risks of alcohol consumption for older adults?
  • How can medications and alcohol interact?
  • What strategies promote low-risk drinking?
  • How can people address problematic drinking?


Download Canada's Guidance on Alcohol and Health.

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  1. McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. Is it time to give up drinking? How alcohol affects your health. (2021 Apr 6). Accessed November 1, 2021. Available from: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/blog/detail/hitting-the-headlines/2021/04/06/is-it-time-to-give-up-drinking-how-alcohol-affects-your-health
  2. Butt P, Beirness D, Gliksman L, Paradis C, Stockwell T. (2011). Alcohol and health in Canada: A summary of evidence and guidelines for low-risk drinking. Ottawa. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.
  3. Government of Canada. Low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines. (2021 Jul 5). Accessed November 1, 2021. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/alcohol/low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines.html
  4. Schwarzinger M, Pollock BG, Hasan OSM, Dufouil C, Rehm J. Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008-13: A Nationwide retrospective cohort study. Lancet Public Heal. 2018;3(3):e124-e132.
  5. Peters R, Poulter R, Warner J, Beckett N, Burch L, Bulpitt C. Smoking, dementia and cognitive decline in the elderly, a systematic review. BMC Geriatr. 2008;8:36.
  6. Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health. (2019). Canadian Guidelines on Alcohol Use Disorder Among Older Adults. Toronto.
  7. 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.


This work is supported through the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and funds provided by the Dean and Vice-President, Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University. 

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.