Moderation and measure

There is unanimous agreement that that too much alcohol is harmful, but there is now a body of opinion that supports the view that alcohol, in 'considered' amounts, can be good for one's health and the body in general.

For instance, red wine is thought to have a beneficial effect on the heart and arteries because of the bioflavonoids and anti-oxidants that it contains.

But this begs the question as to what is considered or reasonable.

And we need to be very clear about how much alcohol we can drink before we are 'over the limit' for driving.

How can we define or measure what we drink?

We need to know how much alcohol we have taken in from, say, a pint of cider or a large gin and tonic. Is there are way of comparing the alcohol levels in different drinks?

Clearly this can be done in the laboratory, but is there a rule of thumb that is easy to apply? The answer is a qualified yes.

Most countries now have defined a standard drink or unit of alcohol; the only problem is that the definition of a unit varies from one country to another. In the UK, the standard drink or unit of alcohol is a drink that delivers 7.9 g of absolute alcohol or 10 ml. In Japan, the standard unit is 19.75g or 25 ml of pure alcohol. This would be quite useful information if we all drank pure or neat alcohol (also known as absolute alcohol); but we do not. What we drink is mixed with water and other ingredients. Nor are our drinks conveniently labelled in terms of neat alcohol content.

But there are two standard ways in which alcohol content is measured: Alcohol by Volume, and Proof.

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