Recommended Alcohol Consumption

Most governments advise that regular consumption of 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 units a day for women does not pose significant health risks. However, consistently drinking 4 or more units a day for men or 3 or more units a day for women is not advisable. It is also recommended that you have at least two alcohol-free days per week. The difference between genders is due to the typically lower weight and water-to-body-mass-ratio of women. 

The effects of alcohol depend not only on the amount of consumption, but also on the rate, as rapid drinking can cause more damage to the liver. 

What comprises a unit of alcohol?

A unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10 milliliters of pure ethanol (the active chemical ingredient in alcoholic beverages). The number of units of alcohol in a drink can be determined by multiplying the volume of the drink (in milliliters) by its % ABV and dividing by 1000.

Thus a glass of wine (125 ml) at 12.5% ABV equates to:

125 x 12.5

1000                  = 1.6 units

Beneficial  Effects

Alcohol consumed in moderation has been linked to reducing the risk of coronary heart disease in some recent studies. Also, a 10-year Harvard Medical School study found that women who drink one to two glasses of wine per day are 40% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than women who don’t. Alcohol consumption in conjunction with high intakes of fruit and vegetables may also explain the so-called 'French paradox'. The French diet is relatively high in saturated fat, yet the death rate from coronary heart disease remains relatively low. It is thought that this is partly due to compounds in red wine that counteract saturated fats.

Nutritive Value

Alcohol is a high source of energy, providing 7 calories per gram of alcohol. It is often said that wine is a source of 'empty calories', which means it has no nutritive value, other than providing energy. This isn’t the entire truth, as some alcoholic drinks contain sugars and traces of vitamins and minerals, although not usually in amounts that make any significant contribution to the diet.

The energy provided by an alcoholic drink depends on the percentage of alcohol it contains. It is difficult to give the calorie (Kcal) content for alcoholic drinks in general because of the variance in alcohol content.

Wines, small glass (125ml)

Typical Kcal content

Red wine


Rose wine, medium


Sweet white wine


Dry white wine


Medium white wine


Sparkling white wine


Fortified wine (50ml)

Typical Kcal content



Sherry, dry