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Alcohol Awareness

Posted in Heart Health

Alcohol consumption is a growing health concern in Ireland. Drinking too much alcohol has been linked to many health conditions including liver damage, high blood pressure and obesity.

This information is designed to help you make informed choices when it comes to drinking alcohol.

How do we know what one standard drink is?

One standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol.

However, alcohol is not the only ingredient in an alcoholic drink. So, when other ingredients such as sugar, wheat/barley or grapes are added to different forms of alcoholic beverages it means they will each have a different level of alcohol in them. This is known as the % alcohol by volume (ABV). For example a wine may have 13-14% ABV, beer 4-6% or spirits up to 40% ABV.


1 standard drink is equal to


Half a pint of lager

Standard pub measure spirit

Small glass of wine (125ml)

 But it’s not that easy, many common servings of drinks contain more than one standard drink for example:

Drink serving:

Standard drinks:

Pint Lager/stout (568mls)


Pint Cider


Quarter bottle wine


Full bottle of wine


Alco pop


Pub measure  spirit


Half pint lager


There are also many beers, wines and spirits with different alcohol strengths, they may have a higher alcohol content than standard drinks and therefore contain more alcohol per standard serving. The % ABV is the total amount of alcohol in 1 Litre of that drink.

So how much alcohol is too much?

Irish recommendations suggest the following limits to be at 'low risk' of developing alcohol-related illness:

Harmful Effects of Alcohol

You may now realise that you have been drinking more alcohol than you thought. People who regularly drink more than the recommended “low risk” level of alcohol can have many side effects including low energy, stress, depression, impotence, high blood pressure, memory loss, risk of injury. Consuming significantly more alcohol than the recommendations can lead to:

Alcohol affects weight and fertility

As well as the damaging health effects of alcohol, most alcoholic beverages contain a lot of calories. One standard drink contains 70kcals. Other ingredients in alcoholic drinks also contribute significantly to calories such as sugar (mixers), cream, soft drinks or fruit juices. Alcoholic drinks have very little other nutrients and so are said to provide “empty calories” which may contribute to increased body weight and obesity. 

Drinking alcohol is not advised if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Drinking too much alcohol can reduce your chances of conceiving, may damage the development of the unborn baby and could even lead to miscarriage. If you do decide to drink alcohol, avoid it during the first 3 months of pregnancy and limit intake to no more than 2 standard drinks once or twice per week.

If you are breastfeeding, drinking 1-2 standard drinks of per week may be ok but more than this is not advised as alcohol can travel from the mothers system to the baby in small amounts through breast milk. Avoid drinking alcohol just before a feed.

Reducing your drinking - positive steps

If you would like to reduce the amount of alcohol you are drinking try some of these tips:

For further information on alcohol guidelines please consult the following websites:

www.drugs.ie, www.hse.ie, www.drinkaware.ie, http://www.yourmentalhealth.ie/


Created by Catherine Shortall, on behalf of the Cardiology Interest Group, October 2013.

Review date: October 2015

© 2013 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian/clinical nutritionist. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.



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