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Study Reviews Recommended Drink Limits

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Many Briton’s ignore the governments recommended safe alcohol consumption limits because they either do not understand what a unit of alcohol is or because the limits are seen as unrealistic in today’s society, warns experts.

As the NHS prepares to review the current recommended safe drinking levels a report carried out by scientists at the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies has revealed that many Briton’s favour binge drinking at the weekends making the current recommended alcohol limits out of date and ‘irrelevant’.

It is currently recommended that men should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day and women no more than 2-3 units per day or one large glass of wine. But experts say that these guidelines were drawn up in 1987 when the British drinking culture was very different to what it is today.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government's cheif medical officer, is expected to update the guidelines this year but a report published in the medical journal Addiction says that a complete over hall is needed.

The report calls for a more flexible and realistic approach and suggests two sets of guidelines; a weekly total limit and guidelines to outline the maximum amount of alcohol that can be safely consumed in one single sitting.

This would take into consideration the binge drinking culture of many hard working people today who almost ‘save up’ their units throughout the week and then binge drink of a weekend.

The study interviewed 66 drinkers of all ages and from all social groups across England and Scotland and found that most of them knew the current guidelines but found them unrelated to their own drinking habits.

‘The guidelines were seen as irrelevant by drinkers whose drinking patterns comprised heavy weekend drinking. The guidelines were seen as unrealistic for those motivated to drink for intoxication, and participants measured alcohol intake in numbers of drinks or containers rather than units.’ The report said.

‘The guidelines are a poor fit’ said study author Dr John Holmes, of Sheffield University’s Alcohol Research Group.

‘You have to have some kind of guideline that recognises that if you are drinking infrequently, you might want to drink higher amounts.

‘They might say don’t drink more than 20 units a week, but on any single day, don’t drink more than eight units or ten units or something like that.’

‘We have had ten or 20 years of trying to educate people about units. Perhaps the units aren’t the best way to go.

‘If the guidelines turned out to be, say, 20 units a week, maybe the right way to communicate it is to say it is roughly ten pints of beer or two bottles of wine.’ Dr Holmes said.

By offering people two types of guidelines it increases the chances that one of them will actually apply to them and their drinking habits; similar models are being used in Canada and Australia.

Although changes to the current guidelines need to be made Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, of the Alcohol Health Alliance, warned the Government not to ease the actual limits.

‘Given the heavy drinking culture in this country, it is perhaps not surprising that many in this study did not engage well with public-health messages about the risks of alcohol’

‘We can’t water down the evidence about the harm to our society from alcohol just because it is unpalatable for individuals to hear it, but we can make the messages more relevant to different ages, patterns of drinking and life experiences.’

Source: The Daily Mail 

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