The United Kingdom updated its alcohol consumption guidelines in January 2016, enforcing the strictest regulations on alcohol consumption worldwide. The previous alcohol consumption guidelines were published in 1995 and stated that women should not consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week whereas men should not consume more than 21 units of alcohol per week. The new alcohol consumption guidelines state that neither men nor women should consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
Calculating an alcohol unit
“The 14-unit figure is based at a level expected to cause an overall lifetime risk of death due to alcohol of approximately 1 percent, according to the independent advisory group which formulated it,” states an article in The Guardian. Still, little evidence exists that the impact of these guidelines will change health behaviors.
One alcohol unit is measured as 10 milliliters of pure alcohol. This equals one 25 mL single measure of whisky (alcohol by volume 40 percent), or a third of a pint of beer (ABV 5-6 percent) or half a standard glass (175 mL) of red wine (ABV 12 percent). In other words, the new guidelines recommend that consumers not drink more than six pints of beer or about four large glasses of wine on a weekly basis. These guidelines also recommend that these 14 units be spread out over a minimum of three days to avoid binge drinking.
Potential worldwide benefits
The United Kingdom is the first nation to make these guidelines on alcohol consumption stricter. There are no known reports whether the United States or other countries will follow this new recommendation.
“Alcohol is a known carcinogen; in the U.S., experts estimate it causes about 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths. People who have more than about four drinks a day have up to a three-fold greater risk of cancers of the head and neck than non-drinkers,” according to an article published in U.S. News. Although studies have shown that alcohol does have health benefits, these benefits are seen only in women who are 55 years of age or older when they drink no more than two glasses of red wine per week.
Currently, there are not enough statistics to date to tell if these guidelines will decrease the harmful effects of alcohol — such as pancreatitis, cirrhosis, hepatitis and dementia — but these stricter guidelines can only benefit the world, as all studies have proven that too much alcohol does cause major harm to the body.
Sovereign Health of California specializes in treating addiction, mental illness and co-occurring disorders, and can help you or a loved one recover from alcohol addiction. For more information please contact our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group writer