New Report on Alcohol Consumption and Health

young woman and empty glass - refusal of alcohol

Analyzing non-alcoholic beverages for people with CKD


Submitted by Nutrition Student Camille Lyu and Tanya Choy, RED, CDE

With the start of a new year, many of us take on challenges and make resolutions to better ourselves physically and mentally. One of the most popular challenges in the first few months of the year is to refrain from drinking alcohol for a full month. This is especially common in January or February, which is where Dry January and other sober challenges come from.

Unfortunately, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Center for Disease Control and Statistics Canada, recorded an uptick in alcohol consumption in youth and adults individuals who reported increased levels of stress, loneliness and hopelessness were more likely to have increased frequency of drinking during this time. So, for some, an alcohol-free month may be a great opportunity to hit the reset button and reduce alcohol consumption for health and wellness.

Alcohol Consumption and Health:

Health Canada’s recommendation suggests limiting alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks per day for men and no more than one standard drink per day for women. The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), just released a report which is contrary to current Health Canada guidelines. The current guidelines were also created by the CCSA and last updated in 2011. The new report concludes that all levels of alcohol consumption are associated with some risk, and drinking less is better for everyone. Consuming two standard drinks or less per week is considered low risk, three to six standard drinks per week is considered a moderate risk, and risks become increasingly high for those who consume more than six standard drinks per week.

Habitual and excessive alcohol drinking heavily impacts our health, and increases the risk of liver and heart disease, weight changes and some types of cancer. When it comes to chronic kidney disease, excessive alcohol intake can affect blood pressure, which is a common contributor to kidney disease. Dehydration can also be a concern for kidney health that can occur with excessive drinking. From a Dietitian’s point of view, moderation is key when it comes to consuming alcohol. It is also important to keep in mind that alcohol may affect certain medications, thus some people need to avoid alcohol completely. We urge you to consult with your health provider for personalized advice.

What would be some benefits of reducing alcohol?

One observational study found that regular drinkers abstaining from alcohol for 30 days reported better sleep, more energy, and had lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Although the all or nothing approach of an alcohol-free challenge may work for some to start fresh, for others, taking a more moderate approach may be the way to go.

Non-Alcoholic Beverage Choices:

As people are looking for non-alcoholic options with the taste that they enjoy in their spirits and beers, there seems to be a growing number of choices on the market! To be classified as non-alcoholic or zero-proof, the product must contain 0.5% alcohol by volume or less. Despite the non-alcoholic name, legally some of these products can contain small amounts of alcohol but not enough to cause intoxication.

The question is, are these non-alcoholic beverages a better option for people with chronic kidney disease?

Choosing non-alcoholic options makes it easier to stay within the recommended guidelines for alcoholic beverages per week. Non-Alcoholic spirits offer a comparable taste without the alcohol and are lower in calories, depending on what it’s mixed with. If your health requires you to watch your sugar content, potassium, or phosphorus, you also need to consider the impact of juice or soda mixers. You should be aware that many of these non-alcoholic drinks use potassium sorbate as a preservative, as well. In the case of beer, the calories can be somewhat similar, but carbohydrate amounts are higher in non-alcoholic alternatives. Most non-alcoholic beers, and beers in general, do not list the phosphorus content so the amount is unclear.

The answer, therefore, depends on how often the non-alcoholic beverage is consumed, what it is mixed with, and how it impacts your eating plan and health condition. Even though the beverage doesn’t contain alcohol, it’s not a source of good nutrients, so consume them in moderation to avoid displacing other nutritious foods. If you have chronic kidney disease, please consult your doctor or renal dietitian regarding your specific conditions for personalized advice.

If you are looking for mocktails recipes, check out the Kidney Community Kitchen beverage recipes and blog posts:

Kidney Community Kitchen beverage recipes https://www.kidneycommunitykitchen.ca/kkcookbook/recipes/?_meal_types=beverages

References:

Bobart, S. A. (2021, June 30). How alcohol affects your kidney health. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-alcohol-affects-your-kidney-health/ 

Mehta, G., Macdonald, S., Cronberg, A., Rosselli, M., Khera-Butler, T., Sumpter, C., Al-Khatib, S., Jain, A., Maurice, J., Charalambous, C., Gander, A., Ju, C., Hakan, T., Sherwood, R., Nair, D., Jalan, R., & Moore, K. P. (2018). Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: A prospective observational study. BMJ Open, 8(5). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020673 

https://kdigo.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/KDIGO-2012-Blood-Pressure-Guideline-English.pdf

https://inspection.canada.ca/importing-food-plants-or-animals/food-imports/food-import-notices-for-industry/notice-2020-06-11/eng/1591993057681/1591993058244

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/non-alcoholic-beer#what-it-is

https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/alcohol#:~:text=Even%20if%20it%20is%20safe,women%20and%20people%20over%2065.