Will drinkers take any notice of new alcohol advice?

Lawrence McGinty

Former Science and Medical Editor

Thousands of lives could be saved if Britons slashed their booze consumption, new research suggests.

It seems almost endless - the stream of research telling us we drink too much, smoke too much, eat too much and exercise too little. And sometimes, the researchers seem just a tad extreme for the real world.

Take the research by the Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University out today. They looked at eleven diseases that have been linked to alcohol and used a computer programme to calculate how many people would die from these diseases (like stroke, cancers and diabetes) in a typical population with typical drinking patterns.

They found that the lowest death rate occured when people drank, on average, half a unit of alcohol a day - that's roughly equivalent to a quarter of a pint of beer or half a small glass of wine. They estimate that would save 4,600 lives a year and they recommend it as a new "public health target".

Trouble is not many drinkers are going to take much notice of that recommendation - and if they do, it will only be to ridicule the idea. Its a shame because this looks like a good piece of research to me - but extreme recommendations that are not seen as sensible to the target group are of little practical value.