Japan Data

Japan’s Health Ministry Publishes Alcohol Guidelines

Health Food and Drink

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has released its first guidelines on alcohol consumption, warning of its health risks.

On February 19, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare released its first guidelines on how to prevent health problems caused by drinking. These used the amount of pure alcohol consumed, rather than the alcohol content or number of drinks, to calculate the health risks for each disease.

The reference values cited as the daily amounts of pure alcohol that would raise the risk of lifestyle-related diseases were “20 grams or more for women and 40 grams or more for men.” The amount of pure alcohol can be calculated as follows: Amount of alcohol consumed (millimeters) × alcohol concentration (% ABV) × 0.8 (alcohol density). Put into practical terms, 20 grams of pure alcohol is equivalent to one can (350 ml) of chūhai (shōchū-based cocktail) or one large can (500 ml) of beer. If not careful, it is easy to go over that amount.

Daily Amount of Pure Alcohol That Increases Lifestyle-Related Diseases

Women: 20 grams, Men: 40 grams

How many drinks is 20 grams of alcohol?

  • Beer (5%): 1 large can (500ml)
  • Wine (12%): just under 2 glasses (1 if drinking a full glass at home)
  • Chūhai (7%): 1 can
  • Sake: 1 (180ml)
  • Whiskey (43%): 1 double shot 
  • Highball: 2 glasses (based on a single shot of whiskey per glass)

For both men and women, drinking 20 grams of pure alcohol a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Even a small amount can raise the risk of developing high blood pressure, gastric cancer, and esophageal cancer in men and hemorrhagic stroke in women.

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare recommends people to “decide how much to drink in advance,” “eat before or while drinking,” “drink still or carbonated water in-between,” and “plan drink-free days.” That said, those fond of alcohol may be heard to protest “we know all that, but putting it into practice is another story.”

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo and all images © Pixta.)

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