YOUR SOCIAL DRINKING IS MORE HARMFUL THAN YOU REALISE
Women’s alcohol consumption is catching up with that of men, writes SOPHIE BORLAND
WOMEN who share a bottle of wine with their partners in the evening should be referred for liver tests, say new health guidelines.
In the UK, the watchdog Nice (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) is advising general practitioners to send women for the scans if they admit to regularly drinking “harmful” amounts of alcohol.
This counts as 35 units a week for a woman, equivalent to half a bottle of wine a night.
Men should be sent for tests if they admit to consuming 50 units a week – the equivalent of about three pints (1.4l) of beer every evening.
Nice estimates that up to 1.9 million adults regularly drink such “harmful” levels, including increasing numbers of women. But experts said “a lot” of people probably drank this amount over Christmas and New Year.
And they pointed out that many couples don’t think twice about sharing a bottle of wine in the evening, yet would never consider themselves harmful drinkers.
A standard 175ml glass of wine contains two units, while a large 250ml glass may have three or more.
Nice’s guidelines are aimed at detecting adults with early-stage cirrhosis, scarring of the liver which eventually leads to death.
The condition claims 4 000 lives a year and is responsible for 700 patients needing a liver transplant annually. But most victims don’t realise they have the disease until it is too late to treat, as there are rarely any symptoms.
GPs are already obliged to ask about weekly alcohol consumption when patients first register at a surgery or go for a health check.
Under the new guidelines, they are instructed to refer anyone considered to be drinking harmful amounts for a liver scan at a hospital. Patients found to have cirrhosis will be told to stop drinking completely or take drugs to try reverse the damage.
Professor Gillian Leng, the deputy chief executive of Nice, said: “Many people with liver disease do not show symptoms until it is too late.
“If it is tackled at an early stage, simple lifestyle changes or treatments can be enough for the liver to recover. Early diagnosis is vital, as is action to both prevent and halt the damage that drinking too much alcohol can do.”
Andrew Misell, of the charity Alcohol Concern, said: “We tend to think of liver disease as a problem for seriously heavy drinkers, but these figures – five bottles of wine a week for men and three-and-a-half for women – will match a lot of people’s consumption.”
He said supermarkets should “take their share of responsibility” and cut down on alcohol discounts.
A report this month by Public Health England said England was one of the few countries in Europe where deaths from alcohol were still rising.
There were 6 831 deaths directly due to alcohol in 2014/15, a 13 percent rise in a decade.
The authors also pointed out that women’s alcohol consumption was catching up with that of men.
Dave Roberts, the director general of the Alcohol Information Partnership, which represents the drinks industry, said: “The majority of people in the UK enjoy a drink in a convivial and moderate manner as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“Recent data from the NHS showed that the vast majority of men and women of all ages drink at levels the chief medical officer describes as low risk – below 14 units per week,” he said.
“Young people are drinking less than ever. The culture of drinking in the UK is changing for the better.” – Daily Mail
NICE is better known as the NHS drugs rationing body, but also has a remit to provide public health advice.
Many people with liver disease do not show symptoms until it is too late. If cirrhosis is tackled at an early stage, simple lifestyle changes or treatments can be enough for the liver to recover
Many couples don’t think twice about sharing a bottle of wine in the evening, yet would never consider themselves harmful drinkers.