Holidays from Alcohol?
[05Feb12] Today’s BBC article “Campaign warns of drinking ‘little too much’ alcohol” reiterates it again: “People should not regularly exceed the daily limit of 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women”. This is also reflected in the current Department of Health (DoH) alcohol advice guidance.”
This is on the back of previous media articles from last year, where it was also advised to, for example, ‘give your liver a break’ from alcohol for at least 3 days a week (see more here and a BBC News video here).
These reports came up after the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) started a briefing meeting on minimum pricing of alcohol in 2009 and following various lobbying and alliance efforts, when their Science & Technology Select Committee published evidence to the inquiry on alcohol guidelines in 2011. More information on th RCP article can also be found here on NHS Choices.
Though a glass (of red wine) in moderation was thought to be cardio protective, latest research into alcohol consumption and particularly cancer (but also various other diseases) correlated the ‘little bit too much’ then the ‘moderate’ one glass (= 125ml). Cancer Research UK (CRUK) pointed out that around 9% of cancers in the UK may be linked to unhealthy diets and around 4% are linked to alcohol consumption. This was based on a study in December 2011 from Parkin et al.
Alcohol is well established as a cause of cancer. Also published around the same time from Parkin in the Journal of Cancer, it was estimated that around 12,500 cancer cases in the UK each year are linked to alcohol consumption. This was highest for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx (around 30%), although bowel cancers accounted for the greatest number of linked cases (around 4,650 cases). 
Risk of cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract (oesophagus, oral cavity, pharynx and larynx) increases linearly with quantity of alcohol consumed above 25g/day. Someone drinking 100 g/day has a 4-6-fold increased risk of these cancers compared to light or non-drinkers. 
Further information on ‘Diet, alcohol and cancer in the UK – statitics’ can also be found on the CRUK website. Alcohol consumption has also considerable psychotropic effects, and can be linked to mood disorders and psychological distress. Long-term consumption of alcohol produces alcohol dependence with comorbidity such as mood disorder, schizophrenic disorder and neurotic disorder. 
If dependency is becoming an issue, it may be best to get help either from a trained professional or via group work. There are various UK bodies that offer help, e.g. see here.
Overall, one could perhaps say that ‘proper’ moderation is everything. This means not only ‘how much’ we drink, or ‘what’ we drink, but also ‘how’ and ‘when’ we chose to drink. It is clear that each of us may metabolise alcohol differently depending on genetic variation and individual environmental, metabolic and emotional circumstances. But e.g. chosing some very good quality (preferably organic and sulphite free) red wine with a good nutrient dense meal (with good amounts of vegetables and fish and other good fats, bit Mediterranean style) chatting animatedly among friends, will likely be better metabolised then pouring down some cheap pub wine with a bag of crisps in one hand and a fag in the other hand after work… There may be a lot of social peer pressure, particularly in the UK culture, however, drinking alcohol should be a ‘choice’. Keeping it to ‘one’ glass (=125ml) is often not easy for many people. Though when sitting down for a proper meal and chatting with friends this may be easier. If you still find it hard, try a ‘wine spritzer’ (50% with sparkling water). If you prefer normally spirits as you don’t cope well with red wine, perhaps you can tolerate a small white wine spritzer better.
If you like to get help on how to track your units and find out more about alcohol consumption guidelines, also check out the NHS Live Well pages here. If you don’t know what a unit of alcohol is – in the picture blow you can roughly see what it would be, depending on choice of drink. For a more thorough calculation, there are various alcohol unit calculators available online.
If you require a litte more help than just knowing how to drink ‘safely’, how to put it into action and combine it with a healthy lifestyle, considering your various lifestyle choices, pressures and other potential stress factors, feel free to contact us for a suitable personalised nutrition or therapeutic coaching programme.
Here’s to good health!
 Parkin, D.M., Boyd, L., Walker, L.C. (2011) The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. Summary and conclusions. Br J Cancer, 6 Dec; 105 (S2):S77-S81; doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.489
 Parkin, D.M. (2011) Cancers attributable to consumption of alcohol in the UK in 2010. Br J Cancer, 6 Dec; 105 (S2):S14-S18; doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.476
 Boffetta, P. and Hashibe, M. (2006), Alcohol and cancer. Lancet Oncol, 7(2): p. 149-56.
 Shibasaki M, Kurokawa K, Ohkuma S. (2011) [Functional homology between alcohol dependence and mood disorder]. [Article in Japanese] Nihon Arukoru Yakubutsu Igakkai Zasshi. Jun;46(3):337-46.