Why we should not try to drink like the French: Cafe culture 'can be worse than bingeing'Britain should not try to import 'cafe drinking culture' from the continentOverall individual alcohol consumption higher in France, Spain and Portugal
Daily drinking of small amounts 'is not going to help at all,' expert say
00:37 GMT, 30 January 2013
09:46 GMT, 30 January 2013
Continental cafe culture is often held up as a model of responsible drinking.
But adopting it in Britain would have a detrimental effect on the nation’s health, an expert warned yesterday.
While the UK has some of the highest levels of binge drinking in Europe, the overall amount of alcohol consumed by the average Briton is lower than that drunk by people in many continental countries.
No better: The continental 'cafe drinking culture' practiced in France and Spain, pictured, can be just as harmful as binge drinking
As a result, the number of alcohol-related deaths in Britain is lower than in countries such as France, Portugal and Spain.
Dr James Nicholls, research manager for the charity Alcohol Research UK, said the idea that continental-style daily drinking is healthier than binge drinking is a myth.
‘In public health terms, making alcohol part of our everyday life in that way is not going to help at all,’ he said. ‘If anything, it will make matters worse and cost the NHS even more.
‘There is this assumption that there are a number of Mediterranean countries we should look at as a model for drinking, such as France, Portugal and Spain.
‘But their overall levels of alcohol consumption are higher than Britain. There is this view that the regular continental approach does not cause harm.
Binge Britain: The UK's high levels of binge drinking is often mocked in other European countries, but experts say that the idea that daily drinking of smaller amounts is healthier is myth
‘In fact it does, but it is just less visible. It is not the public order harm that is associated with binge drinking, but the damage to health is just as pronounced, if not more so.
‘We need to get away from the idea that there is either binge drinking or continental-style daily drinking. There is harm associated with both.’
A study published last year found that overall individual alcohol consumption was higher in Austria, Germany, France, Portugal and Spain than in the UK.
The number of alcohol-attributable deaths was also higher in all these nations, with more than 15 per cent of male deaths linked to drinking in France and Portugal, compared with around 8 per cent in Britain.
The researchers, from the University of Toronto in Canada, classified alcohol-related deaths as including cases of liver disease, chronic pancreatitis, alcohol poisoning and fatal injuries.
Worse: Researchers found that in countries with 'cafe culture' drinking such as France, pictured, overall individual alcohol consumption was higher than in the UK
The Government is expected soon to announce plans for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. Dr John Holmes, from Sheffield University, has investigated the likely effect of a 40p minimum price.
His team’s research found that such a policy would have minimal effect on moderate drinkers, costing them less than 7 annually, but would cut consumption by almost 5 per cent for harmful drinkers, and reduce deaths by almost 10,000 in a decade.
He said implementing the plan would almost certainly force supermarkets to end ‘three bottles for 10’ offers on wine and cheap deals on crates of beer.
A 40p minimum unit price would reduce overall alcohol use by 2.4 per cent, leading to a crime reduction rate of 10,100 annually, while the saving to the NHS would be 626million over ten years, he added.
Figures out yesterday show that men are twice as likely as women to die from alcohol-related causes.
In 2011, two-thirds of the 8,748 alcohol-related deaths in the UK were men and a third were women, the Office for National Statistics said.