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Health and Nutrition

M&S Health & Nutrition



Responsible Drinking

Drinking alcohol is usually associated with pleasure, unwinding and being sociable. However drinking too much alcohol can be detrimental to your health therefore it is important to drink responsibly and in moderation.

How and when we drink alcohol can affect our behaviour to others therefore drinking responsibly means:

  • Pacing yourself
  • Setting an example of moderate drinking to young people
  • Not drinking in situations when the effects of alcohol will put someone's safety or health at risk - such as when driving, when pregnant or in certain work situations.

Moderate Drinking

The Government has set sensible drinking guidelines for men and women to help us to measure how much we drink- and work out how much alcohol is too much.

Men- 3-4 units a day for men (and no more than 21 units a week)
Women- 2-3 units a day for women (and no more than 14 units a week)

Guidelines are daily rather than weekly, as 'saving up' units and drinking heavily on one or two nights a week is not considered moderate. This has become known as binge drinking and may lead to health problems.

These guidelines are set for an average healthy adult and don't apply to people with conditions which may be affected by alcohol such as those with untreated high blood pressure or those taking medications which do not combine well with alcohol.

Young people can't cope with alcohol physically or emotionally as well as adults. That's why it is against the law for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol and why M&S ask for proof of age from those who look under 21.

If you are pregnant or trying to conceive please visit the NHS website for current advice.

What Are Units?

A standard unit measures the amount of alcohol, not the amount of liquid you're drinking.

One unit is 8g of alcohol which is typically half a pint of beer or a small 125ml glass of wine. The alcohol content of your drink is also influenced by alcohol strength and the size of the measurement (a 250ml glass of wine can contain nearly 4 units and a 13.5% double vodka or whisky will contain 2 units - home pours of spirits are likely to be more generous) so keep an eye on how many units are in your drink - you could be drinking much more than you realised...

Keep track of how many units you are drinking with our unit calculator

What if I Drink Too Much?

Your body breaks down alcohol at a rate of roughly one unit per hour - and there's no way you can speed this up.

Short Term Effects

The short term effects of drinking too much are well known. It affects your speech, your body, your judgement, your behaviour, your personality and your perception. It may also disrupt sleeping patterns and cause nausea and vomiting.

The other short term effect of drinking in excess is the hangover! Hangovers are primarily a result of dehydration so it is important to keep hydrated with soft drinks or water and to drink plenty of fluids the following day to replenish stores.

Longer Term Effects

One of the longer term effects of drinking in excess is weight gain. Alcohol contains almost as many calories as fat gram for gram, so if you're looking to reduce your weight cutting down on alcohol may be a good place to start!

Long term heavy drinking, may also lead to serious health damage. Men who drink more than 3 to 4 units and women who drink more than 2 to 3 units a day a day run an increasingly significant risk of illness and death from a number of conditions, including  liver disease, stroke, some cancers, hypertension accidents and alcoholism. Personal consequences can include the loss of a job or family breakdown.

Extreme drinking can lead to an increased risk of being a victim or perpetrator of crime or assault, alcohol poisoning, passing out and accidental death.

How to Keep Within Your Limits

Enjoying a drink forms an important part of many of our social lives, when entertaining at home, relaxing and unwinding.

To keep within your limits you could try to:

  • Pace yourself - try to alternate soft drinks or water with each alcoholic drink. Alcohol is dehydrating, so water or long refreshing pacers make a big difference - especially if you're dancing and using energy!
  • Avoid top ups-to help you to keep track on how much you're drinking - wait until your glass is empty before thinking about having more.
  • Add lemonade or soda- to dilute wine or beer for a refreshing spritzer or shandy
  • Stay out of rounds-they are likely to encourage you to drink more!
  • Watch your servings- at home or at friend's houses as they tend to be more generous and glass sizes may be bigger. If you use large glasses, just fill them a third full -this will also allow the wine to breathe and will let you swirl, sip and appreciate the wines to their full extent.
  • Don't drink on an empty stomach - try to drink with food as this will help slow down the rate your body absorbs alcohol.
  • Don't drink when you are very tired, ill or stressed - alcohol is a depressant it may effect you more when your are run down.

How we can help

Our drinks are labelled with unit information to help you keep track of your alcohol intake. We also sell a range of non alcoholic drinks.

unit label

For further information on the risks of drinking visit the Drink Aware website: drink aware website logo

View our responsible drinking video