Half a unit a day will keep the doctors away

By Sarah Louise-Fernandez

An Oxford University study has found that thousands of alcohol related deaths could be prevented if people drank an average of half a unit a day.

It was found that if the recommended consumption level was taken on board, just under 5,000 deaths a year could be averted or at least delayed, which represents a three percent drop in deaths from conditions related to drinking alcohol.

The BMJ Open study was led by Dr Melanie Nichols of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group in the Department of Public Health at Oxford University.

The current recommendations are three to four units a day for men and two to three units a day for women. According to Dr Nichols, “a couple of pints or a couple of glasses of wine per day is not a healthy option”.

Dr Nichols said: “People who justify their drinking with the idea that it is good for heart disease should also consider how alcohol is increasing their risk of other chronic diseases.”

It was concluded that the current government recommendations for alcohol consumption are “well above the level likely to minimise chronic disease”.

The consideration at the heart of the study was to “achieve the best possible outcomes for public health”, by providing people with “the best balanced information about the different health effects of alcohol consumption.”

Mike Rayner, a researcher in the study, elaborated on their position. He said: “If the Government was to advise people about their drinking then they should tell them the truth i.e. that alcohol is good for them in small amounts but that anything over a quarter a pint is (on average) harmful.”

Murad Chaudhry, a medicine student, said: “They say keep below the recommended average and it may even help combat heart disease. However that depends on the type of alcohol you are drinking. I know wine has certain properties where it acts as an antioxidant but it’s the fruits that it is made from.”

Judy Wong, a second-year from New remarked: “It is sensible that generally drinking less will be better for health, but Oxford students who go clubbing or pubbing regularly already exceed the current recommended units.”

The study also found that although around 5,600 deaths from cancers and liver disease would be delayed or averted, there could be a small increase in cardiovascular mortality.