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Reducing Alcohol Serving Sizes Could Improve Public Health

REDUCED numbers of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions could be achieved by reducing the serving size of alcoholic beverages, according to a study from the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, UK. The findings show the potential long-term positive impact of such a move on conditions linked to excessive alcohol consumption, such as liver disease.

Two Studies

Previous studies have shown that receiving smaller food portion sizes reduces food intake, with people generally not compensating by eating more later on. To see if a similar effect occurred with alcohol, the team undertook two experiments.

In the first study, whilst watching a 1-hour TV programme in a laboratory which looked like a living room, the subjects were randomised to consume either standard (2.07 units) or reduced (25% lower than standard) serving sizes. In the second study, the participants attended one of four pub quiz nights in a local bar only serving standard (pint of beer and 175 mL of wine) or reduced (two-thirds of a pint and 125 mL of wine) sizes, with prices adjusted to ensure they all had the same value for money. In both experiments, participants receiving reduced servings had the opportunity to compensate for the smaller size as they were allowed to order as many drinks as they liked.

Reduced Alcohol Consumption

In the first study, there was a 20.7%–22.3% decrease in consumption in participants receiving reduced sizes compared with standard sizes over 1-hour period, and in the second study, with a longer duration of drinking (up to 3 hours), there was a 32.4%–39.6% reduction.

Impact on Public Health

Based on these results the team estimated that there would be 1,400 fewer deaths and 73,000 fewer hospital admissions in the UK each year if standard serving sizes of beer, wine, and cider were reduced by a quarter in bars and restaurants.

Dr Eric Robinson, University of Liverpool, commented: “Our research showed that people do not seem to compensate for the smaller servings by ordering more drinks on a single night and it seems unlikely that any further compensation would happen, but future research is needed to find out if people may compensate in other ways, such as drinking more often or getting stronger drinks.”

 

James Coker, Reporter

For the source and further information about the study, click here.