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Recommended alcohol intake lowered to 14 units a week

Recommended alcohol intake lowered to 14 units a week

The amount of alcohol consumed by an adult should be restricted to 14 units a week, according to new guidelines from the Chief Medical Officers of the UK nations.

This is the equivalent of around six pints of weaker lager or normal glasses of wine.

Previous guidelines recommended different amounts for men and women based on daily amounts that did not reflect realistic drinking patterns. For men the recommended amount had been 21 units per week.


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Following an expert review of the scientific evidence, Scotland’s CMO Dr Catherine Calderwood has joined with her counterparts across the UK to advise if people do drink as much as 14 units in a week it should be spread evenly over three days or more, with days of no alcohol whatsoever.

New data emerging from the review revealed alcohol can increase the risk of some cancers, even when drunk in moderation.

Advice for pregnant women across the UK will also be brought in line with Scotland, where it is advised no amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe.

Dr Calderwood said: “Our understanding of the adverse effects alcohol can have on health has developed significantly in recent years. Every drink adds up and over time can lead to serious health problems such as breast cancer, high blood pressure, stroke and chronic liver disease.

“If men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week it keeps the risk of developing these conditions low.”

The new advice was welcomed by doctors. Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said the evidence was clear.

“Excessive consumption of alcohol can cause serious health problems and this has wide-ranging implications for individuals, their families and communities, and the health and social services,” he said.

Eric Carlin, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) welcomed the launch of a public consultation alongside the new guidelines.

“I am personally especially happy that the public might now become more aware of risks of developing cancer and that the industry’s claims for health benefits related to drinking have been dismissed by a systematic review of evidence,” he said.

SHAAP is advising the Scottish Government in its attempts to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing, which is being challenged by the global drinks industry in the courts.

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