HEALTH chiefs on Wearside have given their backing to new guidelines which urge drinkers to have two alcohol-free days a week.
The Commons’ Science and Technology Committee believed abstaining from alcohol at least twice a week would help people’s health.
The MPs also demanded a review of sensible drinking guidelines amid fears they are unclear and called on ministers to “exercise proper scrutiny and oversight” over how health messages collided with the industry’s business objectives.
New evidence in the 1990s claiming drinking could help prevent heart disease prompted ministers to advise daily limits of up to four units a day for men and three for women.
Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, echoed calls for a review of guidelines, although also stressed the importance of a minimum price for booze.
Director Colin Shevills said: “While having at least two alcohol-free days a week is a sound recommendation, the report itself states that there is very little evidence that the guidelines have been effective at changing behaviour.
“While I’m not for one minute suggesting that helping people to understand units and limits is unimportant, we cannot rely upon education alone.
“The facts that alcohol is available at pocket money prices, that it is promoted to the tune of £800million a year and is available around the clock on almost every street corner are at the heart of our problem with drink.
“Less that a fortnight ago it was reported that David Cameron had instructed officials to draw up plans for the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol to tackle the threat of excessive drinking, a move we applaud.
“This will make real inroads into solving the problems we face and I look forward to hearing more from Government on these proposals.”
Nonnie Crawford, director of public health for Sunderland at NHS South of Tyne and Wear, said drinking alcohol above the recommended levels put people at greater risk of developing a range of serious illnesses, including mouth, throat and breast cancer, stroke and liver disease.
“Locally we know that both young people and adults are regularly drinking to excess, i.e. more than the known safe, sensible limits,” she said.
“Our GPs and hospital consultants tell us regularly that they are seeing more people of all ages admitted as a result of both acute binge drinking and long term chronic drinking habits.
“I would urge anyone who regularly consumes alcohol to keep track of how much they are drinking and not exceed the recommended limits.”
Doctors at Sunderland Royal Hospital welcomed the drive to reinforce the message of alcohol-free days.
James Crosbie, consultant gastroenterologist, said: “Daily drinking guidelines replaced the weekly recommendation of 21 units for a man and 14 units for a woman as far back as 1995.
“These daily recommendations remain the most current and suggest no more than three to four units per day for a man and two to three units for a woman, with two alcohol free days after drinking heavily.
“We continue to promote these guidelines and welcome the campaign reinforcing advice that alcohol-free days are important to help the body to recover from the effects of alcohol.
A Department for Health spokesman said it was crucial that people have good advice about alcohol so they can take responsibility for their own health.
“The current guidelines were developed following a thorough review of the evidence and consultation with experts,” he said.
“We will consider these recommendations and look at whether it is necessary to review our guidance.”
Andrew Miller, chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, said: “The limits are there and have been in place for a long time.
“We think there should be a detailed, scientific review covering those limits again because the last review was in 1987.”
The report recommends that clinicians and behavioural experts get together to review guidance in an effort to help people navigate what is healthy for them to drink.