Saturday, October 20, 2007

Open another bottle

Earlier this week, UK papers published a damming report which suggested that it was actually older people from the middle classes who were at risk of consuming too much alcohol. It appears that nobody had previously considered that a few glasses of wine each night and the odd gin and tonic was taking these people over the prescribed safe limits. The concern was previously about young people "binge drinking".

So now it was the citizens of towns like Harrogate rather than 20 somethings from Barnsley who were going to damage their livers and add enormous cost to the NHS.

I imagine a lot of people became concerned and like me, did a quick calculation to see just how many units they were consuming. The guidelines of 21 units for men and 14 for women are very easy to surpass if you enjoy a glass or two of wine with your meals.

However, we are now told that these guidelines were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess" and have no firm scientific basis whatsoever. Since they were introduced in 1987, a number of further studies have been undertaken which found evidence to suggest that the safety limits should be raised.

These studies were ignored by a succession of health ministers. One particular study found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

Contrary to the guidelines, recent studies actually show that a drink or two a day improves life expectation. We are even told that pregnant women can safely drink the equivalent of a small glass of wine each day.

I think the time to start worrying is if you regularly feel the need to have a drink and suffer physical symptoms e.g. lack of sleep or sweating if you don't have one. At that point you know that you are suffering from alcohol dependency and it is time to take stock.

Restricting your drinking to night time is apparently a good ploy. The reason is that people who drink in the daytime are likely to also drink at night thus increasing their consumption. It is also suggested that "days off" are a good idea. As one authority put it "you need to be the master not the servant in your relationship with alcohol".

I'm sure the local bodegas will be relieved to hear all this.

PS you can go to the NHS page and perform the calculation for yourself but you must be honest otherwise you will have wasted your time.

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