Two alcoholic drinks a day is not safe, according to Australian health officials.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Canberra has published a report urging people to consume no more than 10 drinks a week, roughly 1.4 a day.
In 2009, it claimed sticking to just two drinks every 24 hours - or 14 a week - was “safe”.
After reviewing new evidence, the council now states a person’s risk of dying from alcohol-related disease or injury is less than 1% if consumption is kept to under 10 drinks a week.
“If all Australians follow these guidelines, we won’t stop every alcohol-related death, but we will save thousands of lives, especially younger lives,” Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said.
The NHMRC stresses, however, abstaining completely is better than just cutting down.
“We are not saying this level completely eliminates risk,” Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of the NHMRC, said.
“The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm.
“For some people, not drinking at all is the safest option.” These include those under 18, pregnant women and those hoping to conceive.
In the UK, the chief medical officers’ guidelines recommend both men and women consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
This equates to six pints of 4% beer, six 175ml glasses of 13% wine and 14 25ml glasses of 40% whiskey. The guidelines recommend spreading these out, with several drink-free days a week.
In the US, government guidelines advise “up to one drink per day for women and up two for men”. This is around 350ml of 5% beer, 150ml of 12% wine and 45ml of 40% spirits.
The NHMRC’s updated guidelines came about after three years of research into the link between alcohol and disease, with people being free to choose whether or not they follow them.
“We’re not telling Australians how much to drink,” Professor Kelso said.
“We’re providing advice about the health risks from drinking alcohol so we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives, for ourselves and for our children.”
One who has seen the damage of alcohol first hand is Kate Conigrave, chair of the NHMRC alcohol working committee and professor of addiction medicine at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
“[I have seen] young people in the emergency department with alcohol poisoning, having drunk so much they can’t keep themselves safe,” she told The Guardian.
“Some at risk of their breathing stopping. I also see smashed up faces, young and old”.
Those who cut back - or give up alcohol all together - sleep better, develop normal blood pressure and experience better moods, Professor Conigrave added.
Alcohol is a “powerful chemical” that can damage almost every part of the body if consumed excessively, according to the NHS.
Over time, too much has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, depression, infertility, impotence and even dementia.
It is also associated with several types of cancer, including liver, mouth, breast, bowel, and head and neck.