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The drinks industry places increasing emphasis on the responsible appreciation of alcohol beverages. Dangers exist in two principal ways. Mild intoxication can impair a person's ability to perform potentially dangerous tasks, such as driving a vehicle or operating factory machinery. Regular excessive drinking can lead to permanent ill health, as well as behavioural, emotional and financial problems.

In order to guard against these problems, consumers need to assess reliably how much alcohol they have taken. There is a simple relationship between different drinks in terms of the amount of alcohol they contain. In standard measures each type of drink contains a similar amount of alcohol known as one UK unit.

One unit =
10ml of pure alcohol
or a half pint of ordinary beer or lager at 3.5% abv
or a single 25ml measure of spirits (e.g. Whisky, gin, brandy) at 40% abv
or a 125ml glass of wine at 8% abv (a 175ml glass of wine at 12% abv is 2.1 units)
or a 50ml glass of Port at 20% abv

The accumulative effects of regular alcoholic consumption are difficult to chart precisely. Few would dispute, however, the strong correlation between excessive drinking and the onset of liver cirrhosis. Alcohol dependency can also lead to emotional and financial problems. The UK Health Education Authority has advised that damage to health is almost unknown in:

ĦE men who consume no more than 21 UK units per week
ĦE women who consume no more than 14 UK units per week

Regularly drinking moderate amounts is less harmful than drinking a large quantity at once. The Health Education Authority recommends limits of 3 to 4 UK units daily for men and 2 to 3 for women. The lower figure for women is because, in most women, a lower percentage of their body weight is made up of water so alcohol becomes more concentrated in their body tissue, and because they have lower levels of the stomach enzyme that metabolises alcohol.

Although excessive consumption of alcohol is likely to cause health problems, recent research has indicated that moderate consumption of alcohol can be beneficial to health.


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