So, it looks like Dame Sally and Public Health England have been playing fast and loose with the facts about safe drinking levels, according to reports about different versions of the stats used to justify the lowering of the limits, as well as accusations of PHE applying pressure to the research group to change the results to suit the PHE’s desired outcome.
It’s not a surprise if you read a bit of background at the time the limits were changed, as they made no sense and were out of step with limits and information from other places around the world. Other research did not back up the claims by PHE and showed much less harm and in fact a hint of benefits from very low levels of drinking, which made claims that “there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption” look completely out of step.
The Sheffield research group behind all this do not seem to be held in high regard by other researchers amid claims of poor quality research and inaccurate reporting and there is definitely a feeling of a prohibitionist mindset in the group’s output.
The new recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the UK have proved contentious. Dame Sally Davies, the UK Chief Medical Officer has come out with some new much lower limits and included a few things which don’t add up. For example, the UK is now the only country in the world which recommends the same limits for both men & women. Apparently her motivation is that drinking is so dangerous that men should be pushed to reduce their intake to the same as women even though there is no medical reason for it!
She also managed to severely damage her credibility when during the launch of the new limits she told the assembled press that there was no medical benefit to drinking small amounts of alcohol and that the idea was an urban myth. Very interesting statement to come from a scientist who you would expect to be up to date with the literature on the subject as several good quality studies do actually show such an effect. You can read the Spectator Health article on this as a quick source.
Frankly her pronouncements about the dangers of the demon drink have become increasingly deranged and she has certainly seriously exaggerated the risks. All in all she gives a good impression that she is part of the prohibitionist lobby, like Alcohol Concern, and she won’t be happy until alcohol is banned completely. That’s been tried before somewhere hasn’t it, and that didn’t turn out well either!