The UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, is reviewing guidelines relating to the safe level of alcohol consumption.
The current recommendation is daily consumption not exceeding three to four units for a man (equivalent to a pint of beer) and two to three units for women (equivalent to a 175ml glass of wine). However, since these guidelines were published in 1995, scientists have been learning more and more about how alcohol can cause cancer and premature ageing. The Royal College of Physicians is now calling for weekly alcohol levels to be reduced from 28 units to 21 units for men, and from 21 units to 14 for women (along with the advice that both men and women should have at least three alcohol-free days a week).
So, when the new guidelines are published next year, they are expected to be significantly lower to bring them in line with current thinking by the health experts. The implication is that lower alcohol intake will increase life expectancy.
However, as people live longer, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and senility is increasing exponentially and contributing to the burgeoning ‘care burden’.
This may therefore be a good time to reflect on the wise words of Sir Kingsley Amis. When confronted with the prospect of reducing his alcohol intake to help prolong his life, he replied: “No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home at Weston-super-Mare.”