8th January 2016

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ updated guidelines for alcohol consumption have been published today by the Department of Health. The updated guidelines warn that drinking any level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers, which is supported by a new review from the Committee on Carcinogenicity on alcohol and cancer risk.

Recommendations within the latest guidelines include:

  • The recommendation for men has been reduced from no more than 21 units of alcohol per week to no more than 14 units, the same level as for women.
  • A new recommendation not to ‘save up’ the 14 units for 1 or 2 days, but to spread them over 3 or more days. People who have 1 or 2 heavy drinking sessions each week increase the risk of death from long term illnesses, accidents and injuries.
  • An updated recommendation for pregnant women to clarify that no level of alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy, removing the previous advice for pregnant women to limit themselves to no more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice per week.
  • For the first time, advice on single episodes of drinking – to keep the short term health risks low limit the total amount of alcohol drunk on any one occasion, drink more slowly, with food and alternate with water.

A public consultation will be held on the updated guidelines until April 2016.