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Nutrition and Hydration Week (N&H Week) 2016 – Alcohol

5086493000_f1a4665678_oFor each day of Nutrition and Hydration Week 2016, our in-house Dietitian Ruth Smith will be offering up a daily healthy tip. Today in the third of this five part series, she looks at alcohol.


The good news is that occasionally drinking alcohol within recommended limits poses no significant risk to your health, unless you are pregnant or have been advised to avoid or limit it for health reasons. However, there is growing concern about the amount of people who are drinking in excess of these limits. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to a number of health problems ranging from liver damage to high blood pressure and obesity.

The Department for Health (DOH) recommend that women should not regularly drink more than two to three units of alcohol a day and men no more than three to four units a day.

One unit of alcohol is about equal to:

  • Half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider (three-four % alcohol by volume
  • A small pub measure (25ml) of spirits (40% alcohol by volume)
  • A standard pub measure (50ml) of fortified wine such as sherry or port (20% alcohol by volume).

There are one and a half units of alcohol in:

  • A small glass (125ml) of ordinary strength wine (12% alcohol by volume),
  • A standard pub measure (35ml) of spirits (40% alcohol by volume).

Remember, many wines and beers are stronger than the more traditional ‘ordinary’ strengths and many measures, particularly home measures, are larger than standard sizes.

There has been recent concern that people who see themselves as ‘social drinkers’ or who drink at home are actually drinking too much and are at risk of developing long-term health conditions.

Most of these people are unaware that regularly drinking more than is recommended can increase the risk of serious health problems, for example, they:

  • are more than three times more likely to get mouth cancer
  • could be three times more likely to have a stroke

Women who regularly drink two large glasses of 13% wine (6.5 units) or more a day:

  • are twice as likely to have high blood pressure
  • are 50% more likely to get breast cancer

Binge drinking (more than 4 units at any one time) and drinking to get drunk, common among young adults, is bad for your health and should always be avoided. In other words you should not save up all your units for the week and drink them all in one go. Studies show that young female British women have amongst the highest intakes of alcohol in the world.

Heavy and prolonged drinking can lead to a wide range of health problems, including certain cancer, liver disease, stroke, high blood pressure and can affect mental health. Binge drinking can often result in vomiting, collapse and seizures which can be potentially life threatening.

If you want to try to cut down on the amount of alcohol you are drinking, here are some practical tips:

Let your friends and family know you are trying to cut down so they can support you

  • Always try to eat before you start drinking – eat before you go out for the evening or have a meal while you are out even a snack at work will help like vegetable and bean soup, oat cakes, smoothie
  • Have some non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic drinks through the evening
  • Think about the strength of your drink – choose beers or lagers that contain less alcohol (they will have a lower ‘ABV’, or ‘alcohol by volume’)
  • Don’t top up the glass before it’s finished so the volume consumed can be monitored more accurately
  • Try white wine as a spritzer mixed with sparkling water
  • Choose half pint, small can, small glass, single measure
  • Use a smaller wine glass

For more tips and information please see:

Disclaimer: This information is provided to promote healthy eating in the workplace for healthy individuals.  It is not intended for the use of anyone who is pregnant or has a medical condition.  For individual advice, please see your GP for referral to a Registered Dietitian (RD).

Posted in: Dietitian - Ruth Smith, News

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