New government guidelines issued this month on alcohol consumption have cut recommended drinking limits and say there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking. Research also shows that any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer, says Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England.
The revised guidelines state that:
- Men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine.
- If people drink, it should be moderately over three or more days and that some days should be alcohol-free.
- Pregnant women should not drink at all.
- People should not “save up” their units and drink them all in one or two goes. Heavy drinking sessions increase the risk of accidents and injury.
The publication of these new guidelines, coupled with ‘Dry January’, – Alcohol Concern’s initiative to encourage people to ‘go sober’ for 30 days this month – means there’s no better time to consider your drinking habits. Benefits of saying no to alcohol can include:
1. Better long term health
As the government guidelines support, stopping drinking can keep the risk of illnesses like cancer and liver disease low.
2. Weight loss
Alcoholic drinks are seriously fattening. Cut out just one pint a day for a week and you’ll have consumed close to 1,500 fewer calories. Drinking can also interfere with your fitness regime. The way alcohol is absorbed by the body can reduce the amount of fat you’re able to burn by exercising – no good if you’re trying to lose weight!
3. Better sleep
If you regularly drink too much it can make you feel anxious and interfere with your sleeping patterns, both of which will stop you feeling your best. You’re also more likely to wake early and find it hard to drop off again.
4. Improved wellbeing
If you already feel anxious or sad when you’re sober, drinking can make this worse. Heavy drinking can be linked to depression, and sometimes a hangover can leave you feeling low, so cutting out drinking may improve your mood.
5. More energy
As well as affecting your sleep and moods, alcohol can interfere with your immune system making it harder to fight off bugs. Steering clear of alcohol may therefore help with improving your energy levels.
6. Sharper concentration
Alcohol can affect your concentration and therefore your ability to work. Give up the drink and you may discover you feel more on the ball.
7. Better skin
Your complexion could improve – no more dull and grey-looking skin caused by the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Skin is quick to react to changes so it could be looking better after just a couple of days of stopping.
8. A settled stomach
Alcohol can irritate the stomach as it causes the production of more acid, and can lead to stomach complaints such as diarrhoea and indigestion. You may therefore enjoy a more settled stomach once you stop drinking.
9. More time and money
No more hangovers to sleep off – think of what you could do with those extra hours! You could use the money you save to treat yourself – the average person spends £50,000 on booze in their lifetime!
Dry January encourages people to not only cease drinking to achieve these health benefits, but also to fundraise for Alcohol Concern, making a real difference to the lives of those harmed by alcohol, their families, and help ensure that young people (and the rest of us) have a healthy relationship with alcohol.
It’s not too late to join if you haven’t already done so – visit Dry January for more details. Alternatively, you could always begin your own ‘alcohol free’ month another time, as it’s giving up alcohol for 30 days that’s important, not the start and finish date.