It seems that every few months, a health organization releases new safety guidelines on how much alcohol is safe to drink over a given period of time. I thought a glass or two of wine was supposed to be healthy?
The first thing to know is that the units of measure are different for the USA than the UK so you must be aware of where the study was performed. In the USA, alcohol is measured in a “standard drink,” which is considered 14 grams of pure alcohol (0.6 ounces). Generally, this quantity relates to 12 ounces of beer at 5% alcohol content, 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7% alcohol content, 5 ounces of wine at 12% alcohol content, and 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof/40% alcohol content of distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in 2010, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. However, even this amount of intake has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, violence, and injuries sustained due to intoxication like falls and car accidents.
The latest study came in earlier this year from the UK’s National Health Service. The previous guidelines came into effect in 1995, so this is long overdue. In the UK, the measurement is done in “units,” where one unit is 8 grams of pure alcohol. For UK men and women, the recommended advice is no more than 3-4 units of alcohol per men and 2 to 3 units for women. Keep in mind that one unit of wine is about 125ml with 9% alcohol content, and usually people drink 175ml of 12% wine, which comes out to 1 ¾ units.
Interestingly enough, a recent Dutch study released in November recommended no more than one drink per day is recommended, and that even though there were some alleged health benefits of drinking wine, they did not outweigh the negative health risks of alcohol consumption.
Like the US guidelines, the UK studies suggest alcohol is a factor in 4 per cent of domestic violence incidents, 13-37 per cent of non-fatal falls and 14 per cent of all road accident deaths. Also, according a New York State University study, the chemicals produced by the human body from drinking alcohol can damage part of our DNA and can increase the chance of cancer and mutations.
An interesting comparison of world standards for alcohol can be found by clicking here.