International booze guidelines bamboozle

International guidelines for alcohol consumption are so confusing it is enough to turn you to drink.


Scientists who studied low-risk drinking advice around the world concluded that there is a “substantial” risk of misunderstanding.

Guidelines were found to vary greatly, with measurements of the amount of alcohol in a “standard drink” ranging from 8g (Iceland, UK) to 20g (Australia).

In the most conservative countries, “low-risk” consumption meant drinking no more than 10g of alcohol per day for women and 20g for men.

But in Chile, a person can down 56g of alcohol per day and still be considered a low-risk drinker.

New UK advice introduced in January this year says men should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week, the same as the limit for women. The previous guidelines were 21 units for men and 14 units for women per week.

That raises another much-debated question: what constitutes a unit of alcohol? For the record, a unit translates to 10ml, or 8g, of pure alcohol – the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.

A one-unit alcoholic drink is roughly equivalent to 250ml of 4 per cent-strength beer, 76ml of 13 per cent wine, or 25ml of 40 per cent spirits.

The UK has now joined the list of nations, including Australia, Portugal and South Africa, that are gender-blind when it comes to drinking guidelines.

Other countries, such as the US, assign different daily or weekly limits for men and women.

The scientists, writing in the journal Addiction, surveyed the definitions of “standard drink” and “low-risk” drinking in 37 countries around the world.

They found that although the World Health Organisation (WHO) had defined a standard drink as one containing 10g of alcohol, this was not accepted by half the countries studied.

Nor was there any general agreement to follow the WHO’s recommendation that both men and women should limit themselves to two standard drinks per day.