back to article MPs probe science behind bogus gov booze guidelines

Science Committee MPs are to investigate the "evidence base" behind the Government's guidelines on alcohol consumption. A thorough investigation is long overdue, as the Puritanical advice of the doctor's union, the BMA, long ago diverged from the scientific evidence. And there are signs that this inquiry may have teeth. The …


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  1. Frederic Bloggs

    Who is going to evaluate all that evidence then?

    As there is, as I understand it, only one proper scientifically trained MP in the Commons. So who *exactly* is going to evaluate all the evidence. Most of which will contain what is effectively mumbo jumbo mixed in with a load of very selective statistics?


    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      I will do it

      if they give me enough to drink.

    2. HooHah!

      Who is going to evaluate all that evidence then?

      @Frederic Bloggs: I'm sure we can find volunteers. Considering the subject matter.

  2. seanj


    "Governments sponsor academics to produce "science" of dubious quality to support conclusions reached in advance, what you might call "evidence-based policy-making". We recounted one example of that here related to minimum pricing for alcohol."

    Surely you mean policy-based evidence-making"?

    A good article, and it'll be a nice step forward if it were to ever come to anything - no government wants to be in the position of making policy based on sound science, surely...

    1. nyelvmark

      Now corrected

      The late-lamented Sarah Bee used to reject such posts, after correcting the article (that's what the posting guidelines say that the moderator should do). In this case, I see that the article has been corrected, but that the comment has been allowed to stand. If you were confused, I hope this helps.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About time too

    I long ago stopped bothering with the government's fabricated guidelines and started following the Shadowrun rules on addictive substances instead. In spite of being explicitly based on a work of fiction I feel much healthier.

    Short version: (Disclaimer: Fiction) cluster your alcohol-free days, don't worry overly about 2-3 drinking days in a row, if you find you need more booze for the same effect it's probably worth a few weeks' laying off, if nothing else your wallet will thank you.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Guinness is Good for you !

    Or so I was always told

    1. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      Good for something, someone, somewhere, sometime ...

      Ernest Saunders got well after it ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You know wht they had to stop using that?

      Some knob claimed the harm of alcohol was greater than the benefit of iron (we're talking per pint), and that the claims encouraged irresponsible drinking.

      The Portman group agreed

    3. Bassey

      Re: Guinness is Good for you

      Too right. My Nanna used to get Guinness on the NHS! Ahh, the good old days.

    4. Tony Green

      No, Guinness is crap

      Otherwise they wouldn't have to have such a massive advertising budget for it.

      General rule of thumb: the better and more lavish the advert, the crapper the product.

      Proved for me by a cheaply-printed sheet of A4 I saw at the Zythos Beer Festival a few years ago in Belgium, "Chouffe. het bier is beter dan de slogan" (Chouffe: the beer is better than the slogan). And it is!

  5. jimbarter



  6. Ru

    Science? In my political process?

    Highly unlikely.

    "We considered all the available evidence and then went with what the daily mail thought."

  7. Andrew Baines Silver badge

    On the other hand

    Imagine the mess if the Sun, Mirror et al wrote about alcohol being good for you. It wouldn't be the people who drink very little who would increase their intake.

    I seem to recall that at 30 units per week (for men), mortality is about the same as an abstainer. It's drinking between those two limits that is beneficial.

    1. Tony Green

      It's even better than that

      Research by Professor Richard Doll and others in 1993 showed that about 30 units a week produced the lowest mortality rate. It wasn't until drinkers got to 63 units a week that their mortality rate became as high as that of a teetotaller.

      It would be interesting to see a similarly properly-run study looking at the mortality rates of people who habitually drink different types of alcoholic drinks. I have a strong suspicion that spirit drinkers might well be skewing the average quite badly (for example, it's well-documented that brandy is far more damaging to the liver even than other spirits).

  8. Anonymous Coward

    What a waste of time and money

    Why bother looking at evidence, when the UK doesn do evidence based policy ?

  9. EddieD

    3 pints a day?

    That's roughly 2 liters, which would be 8 units (most ales) or 10 units (Stella) which would be between 56 and 70 units a week.

    Just a tad more than the recommended levels...

    As I'm currently 46, I wholeheartedly (no pun really intended) endorse this particular study...

    Evidence based policy making, which would revolutionise our political attitudes to so many things, e.g. drugs, is not going to make much headway against Daily Mail/News International based policy making, alas.

    I may just take a copy of this article to my local supermarked so I can point out that I'm not an alchy, I'm just middle aged and looking after my health :)

    1. EvilGav 1

      Not quite . . .

      . . . one pint is 568ml, so 3 pints is 1,704ml.

      A pint of Stella/Kronenberg clocks in around 2.3 units per pint, so it's about 6.9 units.

      Close though.

      1. Dave Watts

        Stella %5 or 4%

        Ummm depends which Stella... isn't your standard Stella 5% abv so units = 568*5/1000 = 2.8? The Stella Nouvelle 4 (or whatever) at 4% is 2.3 units a go...

  10. SuperTim

    Stop telling me what to do!!!!

    I am tired of all these studies telling me to cut down. I am tired of it. I want to have a few drinks every now and again...

    Wait...What? This study says I CAN drink more?


  11. Anonymous Coward

    A title

    'policy-based evidence-making'...

    There. Fixed that for you.

  12. Flugal


    It would be great if the evidence were examined for the existence of 'god', given the vast tax subsidies the church gets from the taxpayer, bishops being in the House of Lords etc.

    If rigorous, credible evidence can be shown to prove the existence of god, then subsidise away. If not, perhaps we should consider taking away their privileges?

  13. Graham Dresch

    Units are nonsense

    “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee,”


    Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced the guidelines.

    Time to stop nannying and have another pint ( or six )

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Thought I read a few years back that the reason that France had an apparently low level of death from heart disease was that if someone died from a heart attack then in most cases the Doctor filling in the cause of death would just write "sudden death" whereas in the UK such an "unexplained" death would be subject to a more thorough investigation (probably an inquest) which would result in a description of death caused by heart disease.

    1. Cameron Colley

      Doesn't the UK have a lot of Heart Fauilure though?

      I thought I had read that the UK has a lot of "Heart Failure" because it was the last resort when no certain cause could be found.

      1. Adrian Midgley 1
        Thumb Down

        NO: heart failure is not an acceptable cause of death

        for the medical certificate of cause of death aka "death certificate".

        And the difference in French and British certification practices is a major confounding factor in the statistic Orlowski depends upon.

        Nor, as noted above, has there been any secret about the source of the recommendation on amounts. Or about the previous work. There is a wonderful confounder of course, in that rather a lot of teetotallers are so because they became ill while drinking a lot.

        The author is surprisingly bad at this stuff.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Foie Gras

      But on the other hand don't the French die of liver disease - 1.5x more than UK? So they're just popping their clogs of other factors before their hearts give out.

      Mmm? Liver disease or heart attack? Make mine a Merlot ...

  15. Oliver King

    Evidence based policy?

    "Governments sponsor academics to produce "science" of dubious quality to support conclusions reached in advance, what you might call "evidence-based policy-making".

    So exactly the same as UK climate and energy policy then!

    I'm off for a CO2 filled lager.

  16. lglethal Silver badge

    An old joke...

    The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.

    The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.

    Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. It’s speaking English that kills you.

  17. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Two pints of Sussex and a packet of Crisps

    At my local tonight. Does that count?

    Beer. Obviously.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    My great-grandmother...

    ...lived up to 98 years, drinking a glass of red wine EVERY DAY. In a time when everything was cooked with pig's (pork) fat and butter was not that common.

    See icon. I 'll drink to that.

  19. Killraven


    Excellent times ahead, hopefully. Should be interesting. Even more interesting to see the wars if they tried to tackle Secondhand Smoke in the same fashion.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    prejudice-based evidence creation

    As is common with puritanical self-denying folk, they want to be certain we all share their misery.

    I cannot believe, thought it is true, that binge drinking is defined as more than three pints of "strong" beer - and more than two fruit-based soft drinks in the case of women drinkers.

    May I sum-up the the politicians approach thus:

    an alcoholic, by definition, is someone you don't like, who drinks as much as you do.

    1. Elmer Phud


      I thought an alcoholic was someone who drank as much as thier doctor.

  21. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    I'll dirnk to having a scientific symposium on this topic

    After all, "symposium" means get together for the purpose of drinking (literally).

    "One aspect absent from the call for submissions is the close relationship between the academic community and policy makers."

    I am all for closer links between scientists and pubs

  22. Michael Hudson

    Don't you mean

    Policy-based evidence-making

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Don't you mean

      Yes. Mea gulpa.

      I mean, culpa.

  23. The BigYin

    Why let science get in the way?

    The evidence on drugs safety/harm has been ignored.

    Evidence on road safety is ignored

    What make anyone think the science will be listened to?

    About the most that will be listened to is the big PubCos and drinks makers who stand to profit. Money trumps evidence. Always.

  24. Grendel

    Evidence-based policy-making - pah!


    To quote you: "...Governments sponsor academics to produce "science" of dubious quality to support conclusions reached in advance, what you might call "evidence-based policy-making..."

    Are you sure that you didn't mis-typed this and mean "policy-based evidence-making" ?


  25. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I wonder how much we'd save

    by removing all the gummint recommendationeers... as an added bonus, more tax from alcohol!

    Mine's a pint, thanks!

  26. Richard Porter

    Looks good, tastes good...

    and by golly it does you good!

  27. Jim O'Reilly

    Too much government

    It's time for us to insist that government stop trying to regulate everything, from our seniors beer to the size of a piece of toilet paper. Almost the only value of this sort of stuff is that bureaucrats can build empires. In America, most of this type of government excess is ignored (the general response to "a radical revision of the Food Pyramid" was "Duh!").

    Sadly, Eurocrats appear to love the sense of power it gives them to write laws and rules, build an enforcement team, then incessantly discuss adjustments. The recent law on "musical Instruments in Public Venues" with its huge fine is a good example.

    Perhaps an "Economic Impact Report" is needed, with anything showing low financial benefit sent to the shredder.

    And, lest we think the stifling effect and economic cost of all this Bureaucrap is not reason enough for curtailment, remember that the two hyper-bureaucratic states in the 20th Century were Nazi Germany and the USSR.

  28. Graham Wilson

    'Safe Level' of C2H5OH inversely proportional to the number of 'evaluating' wowsers is a certainty.

    The only certain conclusion thus far from all the studies taken from different countries over many years is that the 'safe level' for the consumption of alcohol is set inversely proportional to the number of evaluating committee wowsers. Lately, science is coming off the rails through the meddling of partisan researchers who are pushing one political barrow or another and the gullible non-scientific sensationalising media only amplify the distortions. 'Tis time science is reclaimed by competent scientists whose a priori motives are first and foremost science, not politics.

    I'm fed up with this pseudo science. With the millions of alcohol consumers worldwide, and concomitantly the millions of statisitcs gained over many years, then why isn't there a definitive answer to this problem by now? Science either finds meaningful results or we ignore it, the corollary being that we ignore science until it produces statistically acceptable results using the Dalton Scientific Method.

    Even before modern science, we'd at least 2000 years of historical and cultural evidence to get a good statistical inkling of human longevity versus alcoholic intake. Anecdotal evidence this may be but the sample is so huge and time frame so long that we ought have had a decent handle on the matter before considering science.

    Yet, since applying science we're still no better off in coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Results depend on the era, country and study--seems from existing science we'd get a similar prediction by tossing dice. Just weeks ago we had another study that concluded there is 'no safe level of ethanol consumption without an increased risk of cancer', yet we're now told once again that moderate drinking increases one's lifespan (not to mention the well-known French Paradox).

    Etc., etc., etc., on go the contradictions with which the poor long-suffering public has to contend. As with 'Climate Change', it's nigh on impossible to cut to the chase--i.e. reach a reasonably predictable, statistically significant conclusion about the consumption of alcohol--because of the partisan politics of damn do-gooders, wowsers and the religiously inclined whose beliefs pit them against any established norm. After all, they're the most likely to worry about such surveys in the first place; moreover, they've 'tweaking access' to the results.

    Thus, such researchers are not scientifically neutral, even if they don't deliberately change the results. It's nevertheless the case they're likely to contaminate the results through beliefs, biased methodology etc. Their actions may only be subliminal yet they can be detrimentally influential on the results and conclusions.

    Until this experiment is repeatable by all and sundry and the results statistically uniform, then logically we can only conclude that such experiments are just pseudo science.

    The message, which goes back to Galileo, is to completely kick politics and religion out of science's way, otherwise we'll most likely end up with only pseudo scientific crap.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Been watching Al Murray, Andrew?

    > "moderate" was around three pints of beer a day for men, or two glasses of wine for women

    "White Wine for the Lady!"

    PS my sister-in-law's grandad was an Italian farm labourer, worked the fields, and they were all given a litre of wine a day, which I'm sure did a lot for the pain and the boredom. He was in his nineties when he died - he was doing some roofing, and fell off the ladder.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I thought it was...

      "How about something for the ladies"

      "Oh yeah, 2 bottles of sherry"...


      "Guess we overdid it on the sherry"

  30. ZenCoder


    Now in addition to feeling guilty about not eating better, not exercising more, I now have to feel bad about the fact that at best I only drink a couple times a month.

    Thank you science.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Darwinian imbibition

    Since alcohol appears to have been consumed by humans for quite some time there's probably some level of evolutionary adaption to it by now, which might have something to do with "normal" levels of consumption improving life expectancy.

    Or at least, according to Darwin, it should increase one's probability of reproducing - and I think we all have anecdotal evidence of the mechanism involved there...

    If this is so, perhaps we needn't worry too much about the puritanical types. Given enough time, they'll all die out and those of us who imbibe the correct amount will replace them. Indeed, with some serious, concentrated evolution, we might even be able to increase the "correct" amount to still higher levels.

    I think you all know the correct action to take to hasten that happy day.


  32. Martin Budden Bronze badge


    As an adult, I believe the recommended daily alcohol limit is me drinking as much as I fucking want.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    bring back Professor David Nutt

    Like I said above.

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