Japan releases first official alcohol consumption guidelines

The document is an update of drafted guidelines first released by the ministry last December.

Fiona Holland February 20 2024

Japan has published its first official guidance for alcohol consumption with the aim of reducing unhealthy drinking behaviours.

In its initial drafted advice, published last December, the ministry recommended a daily limit of 40g of alcohol for men and 20g for women.

The latest ‘Guidelines for Healthy Drinking’ focuses on the amount of pure alcohol that is likely to increase the risk of developing lifestyle-linked diseases.

The guidance states that daily consumption of 40g or more of pure alcohol for men and 20g or more for women will increase the chance of developing liver disease, strokes, colorectal cancer and stomach cancer, among other illnesses.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare classifies 20g of pure alcohol as equivalent to 500ml of 5% abv beer.

With its latest advice, the ministry said it intends to cut the average number of Japanese men drinking 40 or more grams of pure alcohol a day to 13% of the male population. It also aims to bring the number of Japanese women drinking 20 or more grams of pure alcohol a day to 6.4%.

The document also includes a table detailing a series of lifestyle-related diseases and the level of alcohol consumption linked to developing those illnesses.

As an example, consuming 150g of pure alcohol a week (or 20g a day) is linked to an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke for a man, while for women, consuming 100g a week (or 14g a day) is related to a higher likelihood of developing breast cancer.

In the guidance, the ministry said: “There are individual differences in the effects of alcohol on diseases.

“Therefore, if you try to drink less than these amounts, you can reduce your chances of contracting the disease, although it cannot be said that you will not develop the disease.”

To drink in a “health-friendly manner”, the ministry suggests “eating before or while drinking alcohol”, as well as drinking water or fizzy water in-between alcoholic drinks to slow down alcohol absorption.

It also suggests mixing water into alcoholic drinks to lower their abv content.

Consumers are also advised to set dedicate days during the week that are alcohol-free in order to avoid drinking alcohol everyday.

Japan’s alcohol consumption guidance varies from other countries worldwide.

In the UK, men are recommended not to consume more than three to four units a day, while women should avoid drinking more than two to three units. One unit by UK standards is equivalent to 8g of pure alcohol.

US guidance suggests Americans should not drink more than three to four units daily, while this should be restricted to two to three units a day for women. The country classifies a standard drink as 14g of pure alcohol.

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