Friday, April 10, 2009

New guidelines for drinking alcohol

Two mid-strength beers a day - not four - is all you should have if you want to reduce your risk of dying as a result of alcohol.

That is the new 'cautious' directive from Australia's top medical research body.

In a world first, the National Health and Medical Research Council has issued guidelines for reducing Australians' lifetime risk of alcohol-related injury or disease.

For both sexes, two standard drinks a day is the limit to keep that risk below a one-in-100 chance of dying as a result of drinking.

One standard drink is the equivalent to one can or stubbie of mid-strength beer, 100ml of wine or a nip of spirits.

Under the old 2001 guidelines, men could have up to four drinks a day before being considered to be drinking at a risky level.

'We now know that all alcohol involves some risk so it's a matter of setting a reasonable limit,' the council's chief executive Warwick Anderson said.

. . .

The new guidelines advise women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding not to drink, as well as anyone aged under 18.

. . .

'We're trying to in fact not tell people what they can or can't do, what we are telling people is here is the evidence for you to be able to make your decisions on ... what are the risks to your health',' he told AAP.

'Probably 80 per cent of women and 55 to 60 per cent of men already believe that this level of two is probably a safe level, or a level which they could accommodate in terms of looking after their health.

'So it's actually in keeping with a lot of what Australia thinks already.'

The council has recommended no more than four standard drinks for both sexes during a single drinking session to reduce the risk of injury as a direct result of binge drinking.

The guidelines also say it is especially important children aged under 15 don't drink alcohol, and teens aged between 15 and 17 should delay drinking as long as possible.

'Until the mid 20s your brain is still physically developing and we know that alcohol affects that, so I guess we are more cautious in 2009 than we were in 2001 about that,' Prof Anderson said.

Prof Currie said he expected the new guidelines would set the standard internationally, as they were the first to include information on the lifetime risks associated with alcohol consumption.

'We think it will probably really become the standard way guidelines are done in the future for other countries,' he said.

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