Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Unsafe at any level

It’s generally accepted that drinking large quantities of alcohol over a prolonged period really doesn’t do you any good. On the other hand, given its prevalence in society, it’s also pretty obvious that drinking modest quantities doesn’t do you much, if any, harm. This is something that government agencies have to wrestle with when producing guidance on healthy diets.

I vaguely remember when a figure of 50 units a week was bandied about as the level above which risk does start to increase steeply. It has then more formally stated as 28 units a week, then 21, then 21 for men and 14 for women. Most recently, it was reduced to 14 units for both sexes purely on the grounds of equality, as there was no scientific basis for this given men’s typically larger body size and different metabolism. But the basic principle remains that official bodies recognise that drinking a modest amount of alcohol isn’t inconsistent with a healthy lifestyle.

What is more, there’s a wealth of evidence that drinking a moderate quantity actually results in better health outcomes than total abstention. It’s sometimes claimed that the figures are distorted by the inclusion of “sick quitters”, people who have had to give up alcohol after it caused them serious problems but, as Christopher Snowdon explains here, the effect still applies even when they are discounted.

This presents a major problem for the anti-drink lobby, as they are unable to present alcohol as being universally bad. They also argue that it gives the alcohol industry a figleaf of respectability, as they are able to promote it as a mainstream, responsible product even when they know that many of their customers consume well above the official guidelines. Hence it becomes a kind of holy grail to be able to convert the official line to one of saying that any level of consumption is harmful.

This is a line that the World Health Organisation are currently pushing strongly, for example in this article. I’m not aware anything in the underlying science has changed, and it remains a subject of debate. Remember that these are the people who want national governments to surrender their authority to them to determine future pandemic policy.

Even accepting the underlying premise, the risk level at low levels of consumption remains very small and not something that really should concern people. People engage in all kinds of leisure activities for their own pleasure that even at minimal levels cannot be said to be entirely free of risk. You might as well say “there is no safe level of mountaineering.” There’s also a risk that it might encourage a mentality of “might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb”. The current guidelines, while extremely over-cautious, are not bad advice as such. Replace them with “even a drop is dangerous” and people are deprived of any yardstick to assess risk.

However, official acceptance of this position will over time completely change alcohol’s position in society. It will inevitably lead to moves to discourage the presentation of alcohol in a positive light. Pressure will be stepped up to further restrict advertising, and drinks will be excluded from export promotions and celebrations of local produce. Despite years of doing their best to appease the anti-drink lobby, the drinks industry will be left in the same position as tobacco, as a “toxic trade” excluded from polite society.

And this, of course, is why the anti-drink lobby are so keen to push this message, and why it needs to be strongly resisted.

14 comments:

  1. To hell with these temperance jokers. I drink alcoholic beverages because I enjoy them. The taste, texture (bubbles et al) and because of the social aspect of drinking and chatting. Beer is the obvious sign God loves us and gave us the wit to produce it along with it's naughty child, ethanol spirits. CHEERS!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Transhauser Busch31 May 2023 at 16:57

    You say drinking is harmless but I started drinking Bud Light because it was cheap in wetherspoons and it turned me into a tranny. If only I drank the real ale, then the soon to be ex wife would let me see the kids.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have always been suspicious of the safe limit, as it is completely different advice in other countries, I'll have to dig out an article I saved a few years ago stating all the different units, and how they are calculated in different countries, a unit in the UK is not the same as in other countries.

    On the plus side, the NHS appears to have ditched it's obsession with consumption, after a short period of ill health a couple of years ago, every visit to the GP included a grilling on how many units you had that week.

    I genuinely once went to see a GP because of a knee injury caused by kneeling on a stone while gardening, and one of the first questions asked was about my alcohol intake!



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was going to bring that up the ROI has a different unit system to the UK a beer at 5 percent ABV in the Republic of Ireland is 2 units whereas under the UK system it would be 2.5 units.
      Oscar

      Delete
    2. A pint, or 568ml, of 5%abv beer would be 2.8 units; 2.5 units is equivalent to a pint at 4.4%abv. Of course, if you treat a pint in a pub as being almost always short measure, it's probably closer to 500ml than 568, so 2.5 would be about right!

      Delete
    3. Forgot to mention that this applies to 500ml measures

      Delete
    4. Yes, I think Irish "standard drinks" are 10 grams of alcohol, which equates to 12.5 ml, and thus 25% more than UK "units". Hence a bit of confusion over the Irish minimum pricing rule, which is €1 per standard drink. That's bad enough, but not as bad as if it were €1 per unit.

      Delete
    5. The Whiskey measure are 10ml bigger at 35ml as opposed to the British measure of 25ml.

      Delete
  4. The anti-drink lobby uses health to validate its real ideology of temperance, puritanism and control. Dangerous people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are avoiding alcohol to prevent cancer then you are misguided. Chemical companies and their products such as insecticides pesticides bear a big responsibility for the current cancer rates. https://www.lungcancercenter.com/who-lung-cancer-affects/chemical/
      Oscar

      Delete
  5. Professor Pie-Tin2 June 2023 at 15:02

    Permission to speak Captain Mainwaring.
    I've been supping between 30-50 units a week minimum and often much more than most weeks for the past half century.
    Obvs I'm a bit of a portly pensioner but other than that as fit as a butcher's dog.
    Mind you I nearly went down with a banger after being charged £12.50 for a pint of shite at Singapore airport on Tuesday.
    Fuck me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's funny how you all don't believe the puritan propaganda but the kids lap it up and stopped drinking.

    You are the last generation of drinkers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guess you haven’t seen youngest adult generation in Ireland or a number of whom I know jolly topers is what they are.

      Delete

Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. Unregistered comments beyond asides and one-liners will probably be rejected unless I recognise the author. If you intend to make more than the occasional comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.