YOUR SO­CIAL DRINK­ING IS MORE HARM­FUL THAN YOU RE­ALISE

Women’s al­co­hol con­sump­tion is catch­ing up with that of men, writes SO­PHIE BOR­LAND

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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