Alcohol limits

Do You Know Your Alcohol Limits?

Recommended alcohol limits are often ignored when we’re enjoying a drink at home or at our local, and part of the reason is because we don’t know what they are. Alcohol poses a risk to health no matter how much we drink, but there are lower risk guidelines which are there to help us reduce our risk of harm from alcohol. Understanding our recommended safe units is important, and could help us all to take better charge of our health.


Why the new alcohol guidelines are important

The last time recommended alcohol guidelines were set was over 21 years ago, and as more research comes to light about the effects of alcohol on our health, a refresh of the guidelines has become important. In January this year, the Department of Health launched the new recommended ‘low risk’ limits for men and women, the result of nearly three years’ of work to get them into place. As recent research has shown that any regular consumption of alcohol poses a risk to health, it’s important that the public understand the level of alcohol which poses the lowest risk of developing diseases such as cancer.


The new guidelines

Previous guidelines stated that:

  • Women should not drink more than 2-3 units a day (14-21 a week)
  • Men should not drink more than 3-4 units a day (21-28 a week).

According to the new guidelines however:

  • Both men and women should not drink more than 14 units a week
  • A small (125ml) glass of wine (any variety) typically contains 1.6 units
  • A medium (175ml) glass of wine (any variety) typically contains 2.3 units
  • A large (250ml) glass of wine (any variety) typically contains 3.3 units.
  • An average bottle of wine contains 10 units

And whilst some may take this to mean that they can save up their units to consume in one go, it’s advised that people who do consume the full 14 units a week spread them out over at least three days.


How many units are in your drink?

Knowing how many units a week you should drink is one thing, but working out how many units are in your drink is another. To stay within the lower risk guidelines, you should familiarise yourself with how many units are in your typical alcoholic drink of choice, and know when you have had enough. For example:


Beer, lager and cider

  • A regular strength drink (4% abv) features 1.8 units in a can, and 2.3 units in a pint
  • A strong drink (5.2% abv) features 2.2 units in a can, and 3 in a pint
  • An extra strong drink (8% abv) features 3.5 units in a can and 4.5 units in a pint

Sprits and alcopops

  • A 25ml single spirit (40% abv) is one unit
  • An average 275ml bottle of alcopop (5.5% abv) features 1.5 units

Keeping count of your drinks whilst you’re at home or out will help you stay within the guidelines and lower your risk of developing health complications as a result of alcohol. Whilst some people may argue that drinking a small amount of alcohol is beneficial to your health, the new guidelines state that “there is no justification for recommending drinking on health grounds – nor for starting drinking for health reasons.”


Where can you find more information?

If you’d like to know more about the government’s new alcohol guidelines, the Change4Life section of the NHS website provides a more in-depth guide. If you are at all worried about your alcohol consumption or you feel that you are dependent on it, your GP could help. Don’t be afraid to speak to someone about your alcohol consumption in order to safeguard your health.

There are also plenty of great apps available to help you keep track of how many units you are drinking and to remind you of how many units are in your drink.