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Cut back on drinking, British people are advised

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
health world

January 09, 2012
  • The government should advise people in Britain to cut back on drinking, a committee suggests.
The government should advise people in Britain to cut back on drinking,… (Stephen Dunn / The Hartford…)

The British people are getting some advice on their drinking habits from some members of  government: take a hiatus from drinking a couple of days a week.

The recommendations came after the Science and Technology committee, made up of members of Parliament, decided to look over the current drinking guidelines, which have been revised over the years. Those guidelines may not have placed enough emphasis on the downsides of drinking.

According to the UK newspaper the Telegraph, the committee wants the Department of Health to follow the example set by Scotland and recommend two days of no alcohol per week.

The Guardian also reported that the committee believes the public doesn't fully understand the guidelines, including what constitutes a unit of alcohol.

In 1987 people in the U.K. were advised to limit their drinking to 21 units of alcohol per week for men and 14 units per women, if they wanted to preserve their health. A unit in the U.K. is considered 8 grams of alcohol, or 10 milliliters of pure ethanol, about the amount in a standard drink. Considered too much alcohol was 36 units per week for men and 22 for women.

In 1995 those guidelines were reviewed again, and in a report titled "Sensible Drinking" it was suggested that instead of having weekly drinking guidelines there should be daily guidelines, so as not to bury episodes of binge drinking. Men were advised to drink no more than three and four units of alcohol a day, and women two and three.

But along with studies that showed health benefits of drinking, such as a lower cardiovascular risk, there were also concerns that regular drinking might present some health risks as well. Also, those cardiovascular benefits could be obtained in other ways, such as through exercise and proper nutrition.

The committee proposed that the government emphasize "that people should have some drink free days every week."

Judging from comments posted on British newspaper websites, Britons aren't too pleased with the news. "So much for getting rid of the Nanny State. And to be told to cut down drinking by MPs," said one. "Mind you own business, bar bills and beer bellies," said another.

Commented one reader: "It's pretty wearying to here the endless spoutings from medical advisory boards that usually are disproved/updated as soon as they're published. Surely the easiest and best way to look after oneself is just to go with what your body tells you. My father always used to say 'Everything in moderation' and it seems pretty sage advice to me."

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