Drinkers should have two alcohol-free days a week

 

Drinkers should give themselves two alcohol-free days a week, a committee of MPs said today.

The Commons' Science and Technology Committee believed abstaining from alcohol at least twice a week would help people's health.

Revealing the findings of their inquiry, the MPs also demanded a review of sensible drinking guidelines amid fears they are unclear, and called on ministers to “exercise proper scrutiny and oversight” over how health messages collided with the industry's “business objectives”.

Committee chairman Andrew Miller said: “While we urge the UK health departments to re-evaluate the guidelines more thoroughly, the evidence we received suggests the guidelines should not be increased and that people should be advised to take at least two drink-free days a week.”

“Sensible” drinking limits were defined 25 years ago as 21 units of alcohol a week for men and 14 for women.

But new evidence in the 1990s claiming drinking could help prevent heart disease prompted ministers to advise daily limits of up to four units a day for men and three for women.

The Royal College of Physicians' special adviser on alcohol, Sir Ian Gilmore, echoed calls for a review of guidelines and demanded a minimum price for alcohol.

He said: “The RCP believes that in addition to quantity, safe alcohol limits must also take into account frequency.

“There is an increased risk of liver disease for those who drink daily or near-daily compared with those who drink periodically or intermittently.”

Labour MP Mr Miller said: “Alcohol guidelines are a crucial tool for Government in its effort to combat excessive and problematic drinking.

“It is vital that they are up to date and that people know how to use them.

“Unfortunately, public understanding of how to use the guidelines and what an alcohol unit looks like is poor, although improving.”

The cross-party committee found experts disagreed over potential benefits from drinking and the MPs were “sceptical” about using them as recommendations for all adults, given benefits would only apply to men aged over 40 and post-menopausal women.

The Government and drinks industry plans to ensure more than 80% of cans and bottles label alcoholic unit content and drinking guidelines by December 2013.

But the MPs wanted a review of how the initiative was working a year earlier.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which represents more than 340 companies, welcomed the MPs' “recognition of the important role the alcohol industry has to play in communicating sensible drinking messages”.

Spokesman Gavin Partington said: “People want simple, consistent advice on how to drink responsibly.

“Through our commitment to the responsibility deal, the vast majority of alcohol labels on UK shelves will contain responsible drinking guidelines by 2013, supported by point-of-sale information in both the on-and-off trades.”

The Portman Group, which works with alcohol producers to ensure drinks are marketed and sold responsibly, welcomed the report.

Chief executive Henry Ashworth said: “We firmly believe that education and information are essential to drive culture change and welcome the committee's recognition that the co-operation of the drinks industry is vital in achieving this.”

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “I welcome the notion of the working group to review the guidelines, yet the members should be health and scientific experts and definitely not representatives of the alcohol retail industry.

“The Trust also supports the recommendation that the guidelines should not be increased and that people should be advised to take at least two consecutive alcohol-free days a week.”

Mr Langford added: “However, we would like bolder steps taken and believe it would support public understanding if the health warnings that were included are similar to that on tobacco products, clearly stating the potential harm, providing immediate and easy-to-understand awareness.”

A Department for Health spokesman said: “It's crucial that people have good advice about alcohol so they can take responsibility for their own health.

“The current guidelines were developed following a thorough review of the evidence and consultation with experts. We will consider these recommendations and look at whether it is necessary to review our guidance.

“Next month, we are launching new Change4Life adverts which will advise people about the harm alcohol can do to our health. We will also shortly be publishing a strategy to tackle alcohol misuse.”

Andrew Miller, chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The limits are there and have been in place for a long time. We think there should be a detailed, scientific review covering those limits again because the last review was in 1987.

“One thing that is clear from the scientific evidence we looked at is our bodies recover better if we have a couple of days alcohol-free. This is not a message that says go out binge- drinking - absolutely the opposite.

“A couple of pints a day, seven days a week, is not a good idea - a couple of days free is a good idea.

“Equally, consuming huge volumes in binge episodes is equally bad for you.

“Evidence suggests behaviour has changed since 1987, particularly with young people binge-drinking.

“But in terms of general well-being and general health, all the clinical evidence suggests, however a modest drinker you are, a couple of days alcohol-free is probably good for you.”

The report recommends that clinicians and behavioural experts get together to review guidance in an effort to help people navigate what is healthy for them to drink.

PA

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

    Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam