Tuesday 3 January 2012

Myth-Busting For The Masses

Oh dear, word is starting to get out that those advisory alcohol units - which public health like to portray as rigid limits - are a bit crap. Once the most venerable Stephen 'national institution' Fry pronounces against them, you just know that alco-worriers are on dodgy ground.


H/T The Skinner


Richard Allan said...

I imagine this will result in a huge outcry against the BBC for refusing to toe the line.

HeartAttackSurvivor said...

When I was being stented after my heart attack, my cardio surgeon told me "now, listen to me because I'm a heart specialist and I know these things. I want you to drink red wine every day". He then went on at length (and I was of course a captive audience...) that he was closely associated with the working group that threw up the "21 units" figure. Apparently they had told the government that the range of units over which the mortality rate was lower than LD50 was 21 to 65 units (it's a "J" shaped curve) and NOTWITHSTANDING other effects - cancer, liver disease, falling over into the path of a bus etc, people who drink 21 to 65 units a week live longer than people who drink nothing. The chief government health wonk was appalled and said "we can't tell people to drink 65 units a week (about a bottle a day)!" So they fixed it at 21, any more than that and you're a total sot with the life expetancy of Amy Winehouse. Also see http://www.wightwash.org.uk/drinks_units_myth.htm

Neal Asher said...

I'm going to nick your post here, HeartAttackSurvivor, hope you don't mind.

Anonymous said...

At the same time you can upset your local MP by ending his subsidized boozing at your expense


HeartAttackSurvivor said...

Neal, it's yours, have it!

Anonymous said...

I have just hit the jackpot and have blogged it yslef.

Dr. Richard Smith an honest academic.

Dr. Richard Smith is the former editor of the British Medical Journal who had the courage to publish the Enstrom/Kabat paper on passive smoking, lung cancer and heart disease. It concluded: “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.”

Richard I believe is Arthur Smith the comedian’s brother. Before that in 1987 he was asked to head up a committee to recommend weekly allowances for alcohol. In 2006 the Times asked him about the 21 units a week for men and 14 units for women and he said there was no scientific basis for it. I did a quick Google to get the quote and up came Richard Smith’s blog confirming the story.

“But what should be the advice on alcohol? It can’t be “don’t drink,” nor can it be “drink less.” Doctors and governments think that they need to give guidance to people on alcohol—and mostly they do that by suggesting “safe limits” based on units of alcohol. But is this advice scientifically sound and beneficial? These were the issues debated with considerable feeling at the recent Battle of Ideas meeting in London.

I was a member of the Royal College of Physician’s working party that in the early 80s proposed safe limits for the United Kingdom of 21 units a week for men and 14 for womenwith one unit being 8 grams of alcohol. We advised that a unit was half a pint of beer or a standard glass of wine. I achieved some notoriety about five years ago for telling a journalist that these limits were “plucked out of the air.” Now whenever there is a debate about the validity of the safe limits—as there often is—I’m rung by journalists for a quote. My clumsy statement has not made me popular with the Royal College of Physicians.”

An honest man looking for objectivity.


Dick Puddlecote said...

Dave Atherton: Sadly, he then went and blotted his copybook with this rubbish.

Anonymous said...

Am I right in thinking that the wonderful Steven Fry has recently given up tobacco? I have a vague recollection of him referring to smoking in an edition of QI in which he said: "In those days I used to smoke ..."

I'm watching carefully now for signs of the inevitable development of non-smoker's jowls (why does non-smoking weight appear in such large quantities around ex-smokers' faces?) and a concurrent diminishment of his razor-sharp wit.

Or maybe he meant that he used to smoke cigarettes (I believe that he moved from cigarettes to pipe-smoking some years ago). Can anyone confirm or otherwise?

Dr Evil said...

8gm in the UK is one unit. It's 10gm in Australia and I think it's 15gm in the USA. Ridiculous nonsense. Alcohol consumtion in the UK has steadily decined since 2004. The idiocy of youngsters on Friday and Saturday night is indeed cultural. They associate getting utterly drunk with a good time.

3 pints in an evening and you are a binge drinker. Well, that does for me, my brother and my best mate then. Bollox. Drinks all round!

J Bonington Jagworth said...

Since the QI elves seem dedicated to the truth, however discomforting to the Beeb, I've often wondered what they would say about CO2, global warming and renewable energy.

I suspect they are on a list of banned topics...