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Half the region risking their health for alcohol; THE EXPERTS' ADVICE.

Byline: Craig Thompson Chief Reporter

ALMOST half of people in the North East are risking their health by drinking too much as the first new guidance in 20 years on alcohol consumption is released.

According to the country's Chief Medical Officer, NO level of regular drinking is without risks to health.

As part of a raft of changes to advice on alcohol, recommendations made in 1995 are today replaced by new evidence on the increased risk of developing cancer from drinking.

The latest guidance, released on Friday, says men should also consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, down from the previous 21 units, bringing them into line with the recommendations for women of no more than 14 units a week.

For those who do drink up to 14 units a week, the advice says people should spread their drinking across three days or more.

When drinking on a single occasion, the Chief Medical Officer says people should limit the total amount of alcohol they drink on any occasion. They should also drink more slowly, consume it with food, and alternate alcohol with water.

It is hoped measures like these will help bring down the multimillion cost to the North East's NHS services caused by alcohol abuse.

Booze-fuelled injuries alone are costing Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary PS1million per year.

Four out of 10 North Easterners are believed to be already drinking too much, meaning today's guidelines puts added pressure on people in region to curtail their excessive consumption.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has welcomed the new guidelines. Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: "The changes are based on strengthening evidence of the link between alcohol and cancer, even when alcohol is consumed at relatively low levels.

"Around four in 10 North Easterners are drinking at risky levels, but worryingly, awareness of the associated risks to health is still very low. "People have a right to know that alcohol is in the same cancer causing class as tobacco and the health risks increase even at low levels of consumption. Only by being aware can people make informed choices about how much alcohol they choose to drink.

"There is now no justification for recommending drinking on health grounds, as there is a weakening of the evidence to suggest alcohol provides any protective effects for the heart."

Dr Tony Branson, medical director of the Northern England Cancer Network, also welcomed the new advice. He said: "Strengthening medical evidence of the link between low levels of alcohol consumption and cancer, as well as weakening evidence to suggest any protective elements from alcohol consumption, reinforces the fact that drinking should not be recommended for health reasons. "Alcohol damages cells, changes hormone levels, impacts on existing medical conditions and worsens the damage caused by smoking. It's vital that we continue to educate people on the health risks so that they can assess their consumption and, if appropriate, take steps to reduce how much they drink."

Over the years many research studies have suggested that red wine can be good for you by preventing things like memory loss and cutting the risk of diabetes and strokes. It's even been suggested that alcohol could extend life, by blocking molecules that cause inflammation and compounds that interfere with the production of insulin, the hormone that regulates sugar in the blood.

But research has also shown that just one glass of wine a day raises a woman's risk of breast cancer by 13%.

How much is too much? Here are the full guidelines on consuming alcohol from the UK's chief medical officers.

On regular drinking: | You are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units a week. | If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, spread this evenly over three days or more.

| The risk of developing a range of illnesses (including, for example, cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis.

| To cut the amount you're drinking, a good way to achieve this is to have several drink-free days a week.

On drinking on any single occasion. You can reduce risks by: | Limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion.

| Drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water. | Avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around, and ensuring you can get home safely.

On drinking in pregnancy: | If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

| Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.

| The risk of harm to the baby is likely to be low if a woman has drunk only small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

| Women who find out they are pregnant after already having drunk during early pregnancy, should avoid further drinking, but should be aware that it is unlikely in most cases that their baby has been affected.


<BColin Shevills, Director of Balance
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2016
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