With so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots to pints – not to mention bottles – it's easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink
The idea of counting alcohol units was first introduced in the UK in 1987 to help people keep track of their drinking.
Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. This means that within an hour there should be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in the blood of an adult, although this will vary from person to person.
The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink as well as its alcohol strength. For example, a pint of strong lager contains 3 units of alcohol, whereas the same volume of standard lager has just over 2 units
You may be surprised. A large glass of wine, for instance, contains around three units. In one evening, that can quickly add up to a lot more than you intended to drink. Here are some examples:
- a can of standard lager, beer or bitter – 1.8 units
- a pint of standard lager, beer or bitter – 2.3 units
- a small glass of wine (125ml) – 1.5 units
- a large glass of wine (250ml) – 3 units
- a measure of spirits (25ml) – 1 unit
Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits risks damaging your health.
There's no guaranteed safe level of drinking, but if you drink less than the recommended daily limits, the risks of harming your health are low.
And it's certainly not only people who get drunk or binge drink who are at risk. Most people who regularly drink more than the NHS recommends don't see any harmful effects at first.
Alcohol’s hidden harms usually only emerge after a number of years. And by then, serious health problems can have developed.
Liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attack are some of the numerous harmful effects of regularly drinking more than the recommended levels.
The effects of alcohol on your health will depend on how much you drink. The more you drink, the greater the health risks.
Drinkers can be divided into three risk categories:
- lower-risk drinkers
- increasing-risk drinkers
- higher-risk drinkers
Did you know a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps?
The average wine drinker in England takes in around 2,000kcal from alcohol every month.
Drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.
Many drinkers add to their calorie count by having snacks, such as crisps, nuts or pork scratchings, to accompany their tipple.
A heavy drinking session is often followed by an unhealthy breakfast to help cope with a hangover, which again helps to pile on the pounds.
Going for a fry-up instead of your usual bowl of cereal can add an extra 450kcal to the calorie count from the night before.