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A Closer Look at the New Alcohol Guidelines

Posted on March 7th, 2016

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer and Department of Health has released new guidelines on alcohol limits for men and women, lowering the recommended limit for low-risk levels of alcohol consumption.

The guidelines are clear; in order to keep health risks low, people should limit their alcohol consumption and stay below the recommended limit. Most people are aware of the links between smoking and cancer – fewer are aware of alcohol’s negative impact. 

The new limits of UK alcohol guidelines explained  

While on the face of it the new guidelines may not feel that different from the previous ones, there are several important shifts to note.

  1. The first is a change to the amount men and women can regularly drink: the UK’s Chief Medical Officer recommends for both men and women that you are safest not to drink more than 14 units per week.
  1. The second notable difference is a change to the way alcohol is consumed: the guidelines go on to further state drinkers should limit the amount they consume on single occasions, spreading the maximum weekly units over three days or more. It’s best not to ‘save up’ units to drink in one go.
  1. Finally, the guidelines have been updated to be clear that no level of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy: if you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, the safest option is not to drink alcohol – the more you drink, the greater the risk to your baby. Though the evidence has not substantially changed for drinking while pregnant, the guidelines have adopted a simple no-drinking message to avoid confusion.

So, what does 14 units look like? Roughly speaking, this works out to a weekly maximum total of:

  • 6 pints of beer, or;
  • 6 standard glasses of wine, or;
  • 5 pints of cider, or;
  • 14 single serve shots of spirits

What about the health benefits? 

One of the most significant aspects of the new guidelines is they are moving away from the long-held belief that a small amount of alcohol may be good for you.

In reality, the protective benefits of alcohol cease to be a factor when people drink more heavily – if you often drink more than one or two pints at any one time, any benefits of moderate drinking are likely to be outweighed by risks.

The simple truth is that the short and long-term risks from alcohol begin from any level of regular drinking, and continue to rise with the amount of alcohol we drink. 

Contact YourGP

If you’re concerned you may be drinking to much or want to discuss how you can improve your general health, our team of experts at YourGP are here to offer specific recommendations and expert, confidential advice.

We offer a range of services from cognitive behaviour therapy to hypnotherapy that can help manage and treat alcohol addiction.

For further information or to book an appointment at our private clinic in Edinburgh, contact us using our booking form. You can also contact us or find out more about our range of GP services on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.


Just a massive thank you for being so willing to help us out. I was kept up to date in all email communication between the two clinics which I found very reassuring. I honestly can not emphasize enough how grateful we both are that the clinic was able to help us out with the Zita West fertility tests. We really did not know what we were going to do after the mix up with the blood collection dates due to the 4th of July in America and really thought we would have to give up on these tests so it means a massive amount to us that we have been able to proceed with them because of your willingness to help us out. Thank you again.

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