No one should drink more than the equivalent of a small glass of wine per day, but everybody needs more than one alcohol-free day per week, according to the first full review of official alcohol guidelines in England and Wales for 20 years.
New UK alcohol guidelines
England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has effectively rubbished studies on the potential health benefits of drinking red wine, following new government guidance that there is no safe level of drinking.
Risks outweigh any potential gain, according to the first full review of alcohol guidelines for England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 1995. Scotland also set the same limit.
On the assumption that most people will not go tee-total, the review also cut its guidance on the maximum amount people should drink in a week, to 14 units. This should be spaced out, it says.
A 175ml glass of wine at 13% abv is 2.3 units, according to the Drinkaware charity.
It is the first time the drinking limit has been set at the same level for both men and women. Men previously had a limit of three to four units per day, and women two to three units.
Government advice also says that everyone should have some alcohol-free days per week.
Dame Sally Davies said the link between drinking and certain cancers was now better understood than in the 1990s. Those drinking no more than 14 units in a week have a low chance of alcohol-related disease, she said.
The drinks industry’s self-regulatory body, The Portman Group, criticised the new advice.
‘What is surprising is that the UK is breaking with established international precedent by recommending the same guidelines for men and women,’ said the industry-funded group’s chief executive, Henry Ashworth.
‘It also means that UK men are now being advised to drink significantly less than their European counterparts.’
Ashworth said guidelines were important for consumers to make informed choices, but said, ‘More than four in five adults drink within the current lower risk guidelines.’
In an article published in the February issue of Decanter magazine, Dr Michael Apstein – a gastroenterologist and wine writer – argues that the effects of alcohol on the body vary depending on the individual and the context.