MeIf it’s a dry mid-January and you’re counting the days until you’re ready to drink again, the latest news from Canada might make you think again. Its new alcohol guidelines recommend he drink no more than two alcoholic beverages per week. Canadian health experts consider drinking two glasses of wine or one pint and one pint of beer a week a low risk. A woman has no more than 10 drinks per week for women, and no more than 15 drinks for men, a significant drop from previous guidelines. No alcohol at all is the only safe limit.
In the UK, restrictions are more lenient, but the direction is towards Canada. When last updated in 2016, the cap for men and women was set at 14 credits. That’s equivalent to 7 pints of low-strength beer or 9 small (125ml) wine glasses.Previously, a man was advised to stay below 21 units per week. The UK’s chief medical officer has also clarified that “no level of regular drinking can be considered completely safe”.
So, should we follow Canada’s lead and significantly lower the limit? A Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said there are “no current plans to update the alcohol restriction guidelines.”
But Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change, a charity that campaigns to reduce alcohol harm, said: The first is a clear statement that from a health standpoint, the less you drink, the better.The second thing about him that I find incredibly helpful is that they presented a scale. ‘ It shows that ‘it’s a gradual approach, the more you drink, the greater the risk,’ he says.
In the UK, the focus is on 14 units, so we tend to think that ‘more than 14 is bad’. If you’re under 14, OK,” he continues. “But really, if you have all these units in one night, under 14 may not be good. I understand the UK’s Chief Medical Officer is trying to present something very simple. Canada’s guidelines are simple, but I think they’re more helpful.” They allow people to decide, says Piper. “To say, ‘I really enjoy alcohol. I’m willing to take moderate risks.’ I’ll leave it to you.”
That’s why he’d like to see better and clearer alcohol labeling — health warnings and clear indications of unit counts, not necessarily the horrifying images tobacco manufacturers have been forced to adopt. “I think guidelines and labels are part of the same story,” says Piper.
Now that alcohol is a central part of British culture, will two drinks a week come to be seen as normal? It’s already among a large portion of the population, Piper points out. . “Twenty percent of the population does not drink at all. Sixty percent drink less than 14 drinks a week, often much less. If you go to most households in England, most adults don’t drink most nights.”
At least 130,000 people attend each year during the dry season in January, when young people are drinking less. We see a trend towards low drinking, such as ‘mindful drinking’, the ‘cold curiosity’ movement, and people transitioning to ‘99% sober’ (those who rarely drink but occasionally make exceptions). For those who don’t want to put pressure on themselves, it makes sense to give up completely. So if the cap were to be significantly lowered, it might not cause as much uproar as politicians fear. In any case, Piper says:
Gautam Mehta, Associate Professor of Hepatology at University College London, said, “The safest amount of alcohol to drink is zero. There is no absolute safe amount to consume. The data are excellent on that.” In ischemic heart disease there is little benefit from small amounts of alcohol, which is completely offset by cancer and other risks.”
The question is how well this is known to the public. “Probably not that wide,” he says Mehta. “The guidelines will definitely have an impact. I don’t think we should be put off by the fact that there are no safe limits. That message needs to get out there. We have a problem with alcohol in this country. After the pandemic, Alcohol-related deaths in the UK have increased by 20%.” Isn’t the 14 car limit too high? “My view is that education, not top-down guidance, is the best way to keep people engaged,” says Mehta.
We know how harmful alcohol is in ways we didn’t know 10 or 20 years ago. “Alcohol raises blood pressure and [which can lead] for stroke and heart disease. ‘ says Mehta. Alcohol is associated with cancer, especially “gastrointestinal cancer”.breast cancer is a serious problem [alcohol-related] harm. Overall, there are over 200 alcohol-related illnesses, the top ones being cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Liver disease occurs at higher levels, so if you’ve been drinking within current guidance, liver disease is not a major concern in the absence of other risk factors.
Binge drinking is worse than having your units spread out over the course of a week (those “99% sober” drinkers should be aware of this if they intend to consume heavily, even occasionally). “Drinking patterns are important,” says Mehta. “There is an effect on the gut, which we believe is very important in many chronic diseases and underlies inflammation. It does mean, but it doesn’t. Crossing the threshold on a relatively regular basis is thought to have long-term consequences.” Your definition of “binge” is probably lower than you think I guess. “That’s about six units for women, or two glasses of wine. For men, he’s eight units.”
Mehta was involved in a study comparing dry January drinkers who previously drank about 20 units per week with a control group who did not quit. “The change was very noticeable,” he says, explaining that people’s blood pressure dropped by about the same amount that would be expected if they took blood pressure medication. It dropped by a quarter and I lost weight. “We also saw changes in cancer-related growth factors. While cancer risk may not be significantly reduced in one month, cancer-related proteins were reduced by about 70%. This is significant. This was numerically the most impressive finding.” With many potential advantages, Mehta noted that it was a short study (and small in terms of participants). “But if you stick with it, you’d expect it to lead to real health benefits.”
It’s strange that everyone drinks anything. But many of us do, including Mehta (and myself). “I still have my drink,” he says. “It’s about knowing those risks.” If you enjoy drinking alcohol, perhaps during socializing with friends, which itself provides significant health benefits, about a weekly pint half It’s something to think about.