Alcohol myths debunked

A pint after work, one for the road, wine with dinner… It’s not just the calorie count that escalates, health risks climb, too. 

Do you believe these alcohol myths to justify drinking to excess?

1. Sober up with black coffee and fresh air? 

It takes about an hour to metabolise one unit of alcohol and that’s that; nothing but time will sober anyone up.

2. Drinking plenty of water during and after a ‘session’ cures a hangover. 

No, it may ease a few of the symptoms but water does not protect your liver (a hangover is your body telling you it’s been poisoned).

3. Beer doesn’t get you as drunk as spirits do. 

Wrong! The recommended daily consumption of alcohol is 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine). Now you know about units of alcohol, you know why.

4. Mixing drinks makes you more drunk. 

It will probably make you feel more like vomiting but it’s the number of units that determine how drunk you get, not the type of booze.

5. Alcohol reduces fertility in men

Ah, that one’s true; sperm quantity and quality are diminished.

A nation of drunks

When it comes to liver damage there is nothing worse than a bender. Drinking to get drunk, binge drinking is nothing new  – wine and ale flowed freely through the 16th century, in the 18th they overdid the port, Victorians hit the gin, and so on… We have long been in the habit of getting drunk and the increase in getting involved with abusive behaviour, vandalism, violence, and accidental injuries and deaths and mental illness are making getting ‘hammered’ less attractive.

Time to tally up the units

Binge drinking is ‘drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk’. Have you ever done that? The number of units that count as a binge is not an absolute (because tolerance and drinking speed varies from person to person) but the National Office of Statistics take it to be drinking more than double the daily recommended units of alcohol in one session: that’s more than 8 for men, 6 for women: 3 pints of 5% lager is 8 units, 2 large or 3 standard glasses of 12% wine is 6. How frequently might you drink that much?

Wine with dinner? 

One bottle of 12% holds 9 units, 13% nearly 10 – and these days many of us are drinking higher percentage ABV wines.

In the same way as we suggested keeping a food diary for a few days, try keeping a drink diary for a week or so. Not only will it give you an idea of the amount you’re drinking but you’ll see your drinking pattern and triggers (social, anxiety, with food, reward and so on). You may be in for a pleasant surprise or a nasty shock.

Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)