Lifestyle & Belief

Britons told to avoid alcohol for 2 days a week


Regulars at the Bull and Bladder Pub enjoy the atmosphere of the traditional Black Country establishment on June 16, 2011 in Dudley, England.


Christopher Furlong

Britons should avoid drinking alcohol for at least two days a week to protect their health, lawmakers said in a report published Monday.

The recommendations came from the parliament's Science and Technology committee after revising the current drinking guidelines. 

Concerned that the guidelines may not have placed enough emphasis on the downsides of drinking, the committee wants the Department of Health to follow the example set by Scotland and recommend two "dry" days per week, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The [lawmakers] also want new rules on what would count as a dangerous night of “binge-drinking,” new lower safe levels for older people and a website where people can work out individual intake based on their age, weight and family history. 

Also, the Guardian reported, the committee believed the public didn't fully understand the guidelines, including how many "units" of alcohol they were drinking in their glass of wine, pint of beer or shot of vodka.

The committee also wrote that the health benefits of alcohol had been oversold.

In 1987, when alcohol guidance was published, the "sensible limits" for drinking were defined as 21 drinks per week for men and 14 for women.


By the early 1990s, scientific evidence had emerged suggesting that alcohol consumption might reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), prompting a review of the guidelines. The Government therefore recommended that drinking guidelines should be couched in daily terms: men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day and women no more than two to three units a day. 

The Guardian points out that this "reframing" of guidance as a daily intake meant those who drank the maximum every day would be well above the earlier limits.

Besides the committee said, along with studies that showed health benefits of drinking, there were also concerns that regular drinking might present some health risks. And those cardiovascular benefits could be obtained in other ways, such as through exercise and proper nutrition.

"We suggest that, if daily guidelines are retained, the Government consider simplifying the guidelines so that, as is the case in Scotland, all individuals are advised to take at least two alcohol-free days a week," the committee wrote in its report.

"This would enforce the message that drinking every day should be avoided, and would helpfully quantify what 'regular' drinking means to the public."

Government, industry and charities should also emphasize the acute risks of heavy drinking and the chronic risks of regular drinking, the review said, according to Reuters.