MPs have called for “two alcohol-free days each week and clearer guidelines on drinking”, The Guardian and other news sources reported. The news is based on a new report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which examined the UK’s alcohol guidelines.
Current Department of Health guidance recommends that men should not regularly drink more than 3–4 units of alcohol a day, while women should not regularly drink more than 2–3 units. “Regularly” is defined as drinking every day or on most days of the week. Guidelines also recommend that people do not drink alcohol for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session to let their bodies recover.
The Committee report looked at how well current government guidelines match the evidence on the effects of alcohol consumption, and how well they are communicated to and understood by the public.
After listening to submissions from medical bodies, charities and the alcohol industry, the Committee reached a range of conclusions, primarily that there should be a thorough review of the evidence regarding alcohol and health risks. In the meantime, they suggest that the public should be advised to have at least two alcohol-free days a week and that the sensible drinking limits should not be increased.
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The report came from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The committee of MPs produced the report as they wanted to look at:
To do this, they issued a call for interested parties to submit written evidence on this subject in July 2011. In response, a number of individuals and organisations contributed written and verbal evidence, including MPs, the Department of Health, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and representatives of the alcohol industry.
Official UK government guidance recommends that men should not regularly drink more than 3–4 units of alcohol a day and women should not regularly drink more than 2–3 units a day. “Regularly” means drinking every day or on most days of the week. People are also recommended to take a break from alcohol for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session to let their bodies recover.
Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should not drink alcohol. If they choose to drink alcohol, they are advised not to drink more than 1–2 units of alcohol once or twice a week and not to get drunk, in order to minimise the risk to their baby. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises women to avoid alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy in particular, because of the increased risk of miscarriage.
The Committee asked for people to submit evidence regarding the following questions:
The Committee found that:
The Committee also noted that the government is working with the drinks industry, which has pledged to ensure that over 80% of alcohol products are labelled with alcohol unit content and the drinking guidelines by 2013. The Committee felt that if the government exercises proper scrutiny and oversight, the potential conflict of interest between sensible drinking messages and the drinks industry’s business objectives should not endanger the progress of the alcohol pledges.
The Committee recommended that:
It is recommended that the government, industry and charities should emphasise:
Recommendations on public information and understanding:
With regards to the drinks industry, the Committee recommended that: