Joan Smith: We all need the best health advice around

The problem in this country is how many adults ignore it altogether


A couple of nights ago, I threw caution to the winds and drank a third of my "safe" weekly alcohol limit. Rather more in fact, because it was a large glass of white wine and new research suggests that the limit should be three small glasses a week. Three glasses: I can just imagine the response from people who spend their lives condemning the hated "nanny state".

There's a vocal lobby in this country which doesn't seem able to tell the difference between a legal limit and a recommendation. We've had legal restrictions on how much drivers can drink for years, which is a very good thing in terms of lives saved in accidents. But the amount we drink on other occasions is up to us, which is why we need the best possible information.

Researchers at Oxford University say a reduction in "safe" limits would save more than 4,500 lives a year from cancer, heart disease, stroke and liver disease. I don't suppose many social drinkers will cut their intake as drastically as the new study recommends, but I'm keen on informing people frankly about the effects of alcohol, food and immobility on the human body. We'll never have a population where everyone follows government recommendations to the letter, but I wish more people would treat them as sensible guidelines.

The problem is how many adults ignore health advice altogether. Alcoholism is a huge social problem and so is obesity. A couple of days ago, I walked past a shop where a hugely overweight assistant had slipped outside for a quick cigarette, and I couldn't believe that someone who already had a life-shortening condition was blithely risking lung cancer as well.

You may have seen photographs of the platform erected to winch an obese teenager, Georgia Davis, from her bedroom to a hospital in South Wales where she's been treated for diabetes, kidney failure and respiratory problems. It's a tragic situation for a young woman who's still only 19, and, despite her own poor health, her mother's registered carer. It's clear from what she says that she knows she needs help, but doesn't know where to get it.

At times like this, I can't help wishing we had more intervention in people's health, and to hell with complaints about the "nanny state". My GPs' surgery offers health check-ups which include weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and they say they're popular with patients – though possibly less so with individuals who know they eat and drink too much. What's wrong with telling people what's bad for them?

It may come as a shock to know that the "optimal" limit for drinking is so much lower than most of us believed. It may not even be achievable when wine and beer are so readily available, but we need to give more thought to the balance between pleasure and health.;

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page


Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
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