Alcohol, is high in kilojoules, is nutrient poor and can lead to weight gain. Alcohol can be harmful to your health, the more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk. Even small amounts of alcohol are associated with increased risk of some cancers. Too much alcohol may also damage the liver and brain, and increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

No level of drinking alcohol can be guaranteed as completely safe. However, drinking alcohol within the recommended responsible limits will enable healthy adults to keep their risk of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, diseases and death low.

The NHMRC Alcohol Guidelines recommend that to reduce your risk of harm from alcohol:

  1. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any one day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
  2. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
  3. For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
    • Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.
    • For young people aged 15-17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.
  4. Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing feotus or breastfeeding baby.
    • For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
    • For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

An image of a middy of beer to illustrate the NHMRC Alcohol guidelinesIt is important to remember that factors such as gender, age, mental health, drug use and existing medical conditions can change how alcohol affects you.

A standard drink provides 10g alcohol and is equal to:

  • 100ml wine
  • 285ml full strength beer
  • 60ml port or sherry
  • 30ml spirits

These quantities are quite small and this means that many single drinks, can be equivalent to more than one standard drink.

Tips when drinking alcohol

  • Aim for two alcohol free days per week.
  • When drinking alcohol, try to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water or soda water.
  • Try a wine spritzer with mineral or soda water instead of a full glass of wine.
  • If having a glass of wine, don’t fill it to the top. One standard drink equals 100mL (less than half a cup).
  • Avoid snacking on foods high in salt. Not only is too much salt unhealthy, but it can also increase the likelihood of having another drink.
  • Avoid pre-mixed drinks with added sugars. These are very high in both kilojoules and sugars.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks. The caffeine reduces your ability to manage your alcohol intake. This can lead to a higher risk of alcohol-related harm.

Source: Dietitians Australia (formerly Dietitians Association of Australia) (2013): Smart Eating For You. Canberra, Australia.