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Lifestyle: 5 drinks a week, max!

17 Apr 2018

If good health is your objective, a massive new study on the safe level of alcohol consumption published in The Lancet medical journal will make you think twice.

The main finding of the study is that anything over 100 gms of pure alcohol per week for either women or men will progressively reduce life expectancy. That equates to between 4 to 7 glasses of wine (175ml each) depending upon the level of alcohol, or 6 small bottles of beer a week. Over that and the risk of death from stroke, a ruptured artery in the chest or heart failure increases significantly.

If you want to get down to the last gram of alcohol, to be accurate, you can take the alcohol percentage of your favourite alcoholic drink and work out exactly how many drinks you can consume a week to get to that magic 100 grams of pure alcohol. To do this you will need to know that 100 grams of pure alcohol = 127 millilitres of pure alcohol.

If you are drinking 330 ml bottles of beer at 5% alcohol, one bottle equals 16.5 mls of alcohol and that leaves you with up to 6 bottles of that beer a week to make 100 grams of pure alcohol.

If you are drinking red wine at 15% alcohol, one glass (175 ml) is equal to 26.3 mls of alcohol so that leaves you with up to 4 glasses of red wine a week.

Lower alcohol wine at 8.5% alcohol, one glass (175 ml) is equal to 14.9 mls of alcohol so that leaves you with up to 7 glasses of lower alcohol wine a week.

If you have a smaller body size, then your limits are lower. So too if you are young, or of advanced age. All the other warnings apply to drinking any alcohol, of course.

My favourite low alcohol wine is Riesling with several beautiful wines having around 8.5% alcohol. Some of them are from Germany and still reasonably priced but there are also some superb New Zealand versions. Look at this article in the NZ Herald for some commentary and examples NZHerald Low Alcohol Wines

The study reported in The Lancet came from nearly 600,000 current drinkers from 19 countries. A wide range of academics have described the study as ‘impressive’. Of course, there is mounting opposition to the study from some in the alcohol industry, which I am not surprised about. They describe the new guidelines as ‘implausible’ and ‘impracticable’. Didn’t the cigarette companies say the same thing about cigarettes years ago? For me, as someone who considers wine a hobby as well as a recreational drug, the study supports my decision to drink less, but better quality.

Same for women and men

The United Kingdom has recently adopted these limits as their recommended maximum guideline for alcohol intake and surprisingly they agree that the limits should be the same for both men and women. Only Australia and the UK have the same recommended guidelines for both men and women, yet this was supported by the study.

The authors of the study point out that most countries in the alcohol drinking world have maximum guidelines for alcohol consumption way above that recommended by this study. In the US it is almost twice as high at 196 gms per week for men. In New Zealand the guidelines for women are: a maximum of 100 gms per week (men 150 gms), no more than 20 gms per day (30 gms for men), two alcohol-free days per week and no more than 40 gms on any one occasion (50 gms for men). It looks like we are behind the times? We would come into line by reducing the men’s limits to those of our women.

Keep asking great questions …

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