With so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots to pints – not to mention bottles it’s easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink.
Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink.One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink, as well as its alcohol strength.For example, a pint of strong lager contains 3 units of alcohol, whereas the same volume of lower-strength lager has just over 2 units.
Knowing your units will help you stay in control of your drinking.Keeping health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:
Men are advised not to drink more than 21 units a week and women are advised to drink not more than 14 units a week.
Spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week.If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week.
14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of lower-strength wine.
|Type of drink
|Number of alcohol units
|Single small shot of spirits* (25ml, ABV 40%)
|Alcopop (275ml, ABV 5.5%)
|Small glass of red/white/rosé wine (125ml, ABV 12%)
|Bottle of lager/beer/cider (330ml, ABV 5%)
|Can of lager/beer/cider (440ml, ABV 5.5%)
|Pint of lower-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%)
|Standard glass of red/white/rosé wine (175ml, ABV 12%)
|Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2%)
|Large glass of red/white/rosé wine (250ml, ABV 12%)
Pros and cons of moderate alcohol use
Moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits, such as:
- Reducing your risk of developing and dying of heart disease
- Possibly reducing your risk of ischemic stroke (when the arteries to your brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow)
However, eating a healthy diet and being physically active have much greater health benefits and have been more extensively studied.
Keep in mind that even moderate alcohol use isn’t risk-free. For example, even light drinkers (those who have no more than one drink a day) have a tiny, but real, increased risk of some cancers, such as esophageal cancer. And drinking and driving is never a good idea.
Risks of heavy alcohol use
While moderate alcohol use may offer some health benefits, heavy drinking — including binge drinking — has no health benefits.
Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks a week for women and for men older than age 65, and more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks a week for men age 65 and younger.
Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks within two hours for men.
Excessive drinking can increase your risk of serious health problems, including:
- Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver
- Sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease
- Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Accidental serious injury or death
- Brain damage and other problems in an unborn child
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome