Raise a glass to sensible drinking - Surrey Mirror June 2015

“In my clinics, I am seeing more men coming to me with health problems linked to alcohol abuse. And worryingly, a growing number of these are in their late 20s.

If you regularly drink more than the recommended guidelines (see below) you risk a whole host of health issues. In the short term, it can reduce energy levels and cause sexual difficulties, and in the long term, men are twice as likely as women to develop liver cirrhosis, have high blood pressure, and diabetes.

It can also cause obesity - five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.

I advise men to make changes gradually - that way they are more likely to stick to them:

  • Understand your units Government guidelines suggest men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day - that is not much more than a pint of strong lager.To work out the number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 5.2%, the calculation is: 5.2 (%) x 568 (ml) ÷ 1,000 = 2.95 units Supermarket online grocery websites will show drinks with their ABV content, and, often, the number of units per bottle or can.
  • Go low. If you have a favourite brand, try another in the range that has a lower ABV. For example - a 500ml can of Carlsberg has 3.8%ABV (1.9 units), while a 500ml can of Carlsberg Export is 5% ABV, equal to 2.5 units.
  • Try a different brand. Swop a bottle of Becks, Stella or Budweiser (all 4.8% abv) for a supermarket own French lager which has less alcohol (Tesco Biere d’Or 3.8%abv or Biere Blonde 2.6%abv)
  • Try a different drink. Ale is naturally lower in alcohol than lager, and spirits have one unit of alcohol per single shot (25m) Careful though, the standard spirits measure offered in some pubs and clubs is 35mls (1.4 units)
  • Shop around for wine. An average bottle of wine has an alcohol strength of around 12% (9-10 units) This summer, swop your Rioja (average 13.5%abv) for a lighter rosé (average 10%abv)
  • Go on a Surrey taste discovery - as ale has less alcohol than lager, why not try one of the local brews while out in Surrey’s pubs. Reigate’s Pilgrims Brewery has Surrey Bitter (3.7% ABV) and Dorking-based Surrey Hills Brewery has Ranmore Ale (3.8% ABV)
  • Keep an eye on the rounds - when it’s your turn to buy, order yourself a soft drink, and alternate pints of lager with a shandy.
  • Don’t bulk buy – ignore special offers and the chance to stock up while shopping online. If it’s not in the fridge or wine rack, you won’t be tempted.
  • Become a gadget man – download an app to your mobile to help you monitor your drinking and count your units. Try the `change4life drinks tracker’ or the `Drinkaware’ app.
  • Have alcohol free days. Give your liver chance to regenerate and give yourself time to assess your dependence on alcohol. Plan alcohol-free days pre and post a social occasion. 

Lucy Jones is a specialist dietitian for Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Povey Cross Road, Horley. She runs flexible clinics there several times a week, including Saturdays. She is a consultant dietitian on BBC's Eat Well for Less and Channel 4's Food Hospital programme.

Originally published in June 2015 by the Surrey Mirror

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