Recently Sally Davies the UK’s Chief Medical Officer issued new guidelines for alcohol consumption. The new guidelines recommend further reducing alcohol consumption to avoid increased risk of cancer, heart disease and overall risk of death.
The new guidelines say that to reduce health risks, men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol in a week, roughly the equivalent of seven glasses of wine, six pints of beer, or half a bottle of whiskey.
Others called the new guidelines alarmist.“The chief medical officer has focused on small increases in cancer risk while ignoring the much larger body of evidence that shows moderate drinking reduces heart disease risk and, most importantly, reduces the overall risk of death,” Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at Institute of Economic Affairs, a research group in London that favors free markets, said in a statement.
“Alcohol consumption has been falling for a decade. The change to the guidelines will turn hundreds of thousands of people into hazardous drinkers overnight thereby reviving the moral panic about drinking in Britain and opening the door to yet more nanny state interventions.”
Ms. Davies, the chief medical officer, defended the guidelines as good science based on solid evidence, and said that other countries would follow Britain’s example.
“If you take 1,000 women, 110 will get breast cancer without drinking,” she told the BBC. “Drink up to these guidelines and an extra 20 women will get cancer because of that drinking. Double the guideline limit and an extra 50 women per 1,000 will get cancer.”
“Take bowel cancer in men: If they drink within the guidelines their risk is the same as non drinking,” she added. “But if they drink up to the old guidelines, an extra 20 men per 1,000 will get bowel cancer. That’s not scaremongering, that’s fact and it’s hard science.”
The dietary guidelines for Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, define moderate alcohol consumption as consuming up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men (a drink is broadly defined as a 12-ounce beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine).
The guidelines note that even “moderate alcohol intake” is associated with “increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.”
In Britain, the Alcohol Health Alliance, which represents over 40 health organizations, said the new guidelines would bring Britain in line with countries such as Canada (10 drinks a week for women; 15 for men) and Australia (for healthy men and women, no more than two drinks on any day is advised).
There was a time in Australia and UK when men’s and women’s drinking guidelines were different. For example Men’s guidelines used to be 21 units a week and women’s 14 units a week. Now they are equal. These changes seems to be based on new evidence that the UK’s previous drinking guidelines increase risk of bowel cancer.
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