It’s no secret that excessive alcohol consumption is a worldwide problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide consumption of alcohol in 2010 alone was equal to “6.2 litres [approximately 33.8 ounces] per person aged 15 years or older, which translates to 13.5 grams of pure alcohol each day.” A quarter of this consumption remains unrecorded due to the fact that it was likely illegally produced outside of government regulation. However, it is known that according to a 2012 estimate, “about 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9% of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption.”
UK Establishes New Guidelines to Regulate Alcohol Consumption
It is this realization which motivated the UK’s Department of Health to revise its guidelines. However, this review also found that the alleged benefits of alcohol for heart health mainly apply to women aged 55 and older. That being said, these women should limit their alcohol intake to around 5 units a week – the equivalent of two standard glasses of wine. Otherwise, the Department of Health found that drinking alcohol can increase women’s risk of mouth, throat, and breast cancer.
Interestingly, the guideline’s upper limit for women’s consumption remains at 14 units per week but the recommended consumption level for men has decreased. Previously, men were advised not to exceed 21 units a week but that limit has now dropped to 14 units – the same as women. This is almost equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer. The increased drop for the recommended consumption guideline for men is likely due to the fact that in the UK, men account for 65% of alcohol-related deaths.
New Guidelines Discourage Binge-Drinking
Moreover, people are being advised not to “save up” their allotted days for a 1-2 day binge-drinking spree as this can be even more dangerous. Having 1 to 2 days of heavy drinking can increase the risk of death from long-term illnesses, as well as accidents and injuries. By spreading out their recommended consumption and not succumbing to binge-drinking they can allow for more alcohol-free days which can ultimately reduce overall intake.
Not surprisingly, pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol entirely. Alcohol is unsafe to drink during pregnancy in any amount.
Another renewed recommendation by the Department of Health is that individuals limit the total amount of alcohol consumed in a single day. This includes drinking plenty of water and consuming food to avoid intoxication which presents even more possible consequences. The report reveals that those who are particularly susceptible to the dangers of alcohol are: “young adults, older people, those with low body weight or other health problems, and those using medicines or other drugs.”
Alcohol Can Increase Risk of Certain Cancers
High levels of alcohol consumption come with a number of health risks, this includes increasing the risk of a number of cancers, according to recent guidelines released by the UK’s Department of Health. These guidelines are based on worldwide research and they aim to decrease the risk of mortality from cancer and other diseases. The original guidelines were published in 1955, back when the connections between alcohol and cancer were not fully understood. However, current evidence shows that the risks start from any amount of regular drinking and the risk increases the more one drinks.
Research from the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) reveals that alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions. These include heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. In an alarming statistic, around 1 in 20 of all new cancers in the UK can be traced back to alcohol consumption. Because of this, the UK’s Committee on Carcinogenicity (CoC), claims that drinking even a little can increase the risk of some cancers when compared with those who don’t drink at all. Fortunately, Medical News Today reports that “The risk of developing some alcohol-related cancers reduces over time when people stop drinking, but it can take many years to return to the levels found in people who have never drunk alcohol.”
What these New Guidelines are Doing
Commenting on these updated guidelines and their purpose, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England states: “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low.”
The point of these guidelines is to not only encourage individuals to reduce their alcohol consumption but to also raise awareness of the ways in which consuming alcohol can be dangerous by providing the most up-to-date scientific information. In this way, people can begin to make more informed decisions about drinking and the level of risk they are willing to take with their health and well-being. And, perhaps most importantly, hoping that they may use these guidelines to make the best decision and reduce their risk altogether.