Good Health ... with Dr Stu - Flagging up dangers of drink

Dr Stuart Farrimond

Dr Stuart Farrimond

First published in News by

“Warning! Drinking this could seriously harm your health.”

Now I don’t know about you, but if I read that on a bottle then I would think twice about letting it anywhere near my lips – the prospect of being unwell is never a particularly appetising one.

But if Conservative MP Tracey Crouch gets her way, such health warnings could be appearing on cans and bottles of all alcoholic drinks.

It sounds depressing – seeing a black and white danger sticker on a prized 2008 bottle of Rioja would somehow take the edge off it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of having a good time but the sad truth is that too many of us drink far too much.

The UK has a serious alcohol problem and the stats make for scary reading: one in seven A&E attendances is due to alcohol. Liver disease has doubled in the last 20 years among young adults, and today over half of teenage girls regularly binge drink.

Just think, if we Brits were more responsible with our liquor, we could save the country a hefty £21 billion annually. Which is a lot of money – enough to host the London Olympics twice a year in fact. Yes, yes, before you say it, a bit of tipple can be good for us. People who drink a small amount of alcohol – especially red wine – seem to live slightly longer. But the ‘red wine health benefits’ are greatly exaggerated. You really don’t need very much to be in optimum health – up to one small glass of wine (1-2 units) a day is plenty. Clearly that’s not enough to get many people doing karaoke on the table top.

Even people who think of themselves as ‘moderate’ drinkers often overdo it without realising.

The suggested limit for a man is four units a day and three units for a woman. Regularly going over this quota can harm the liver, heart, brain; it can lead to obesity and certain cancers, and can even harm fertility and cause a man to lose his ‘va-va-voom’.

It sounds like the Government may be on to something with their warning labels, then. But don’t pop the Champagne corks too quickly. Such a scheme is likely to fizz because folk can be remarkably strong-willed about their drinking habits.

Research shows that, unlike tobacco warnings, alcohol labelling doesn’t make people cut back. Rather, the evidence repeatedly demonstrates that the key to making people drink less is to put the price up and make it more difficult to get hold of.

When you consider that 24-hour supermarkets sell big box beer deals that work out cheaper than bottled water, it’s hardly surprising Saturday nights in A&E are hairy.

Whether you drink or not, one thing is for sure. Seeing “Warning: buying this drink will seriously harm your bank balance” slapped on your favourite drink would leave a bitter taste in anyone’s the mouth.

* For more information, facts and advice about alcohol consumption, visit www.drinkaware.co.uk

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