Drink aware
MPs recommend at least two drink-free days per week. (Photo: Reuters) Reuters

At least two alcohol-free days per week should become the norm for people who like a drink, according to a report by MPs.

The drink-free days are recommended in an alcohol guidelines report by the Commons science and technology committee.

"[There are] sufficient concerns about current drinking guidelines to suggest that a thorough review of the evidence concerning alcohol and health risks is due," the report says.

Two alcohol-free days "would enforce the message that drinking every day should be avoided," the report goes on.

Simon Antrobus, chief executive of UK specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity Addaction, welcomed the guidelines.

"A good number of people drink responsibly. Some don't drink at all. However, Andrew Miller [chairman] and the science and technology committee has raised a timely and crucial point in suggesting that we should all have at least two days a week completely clear of alcohol," he said.

"Far too many of us have a daily relationship with alcohol and we should be taking steps to reduce our intake."

Antrobus said that while alcohol plays a social role for many people, it is potentially harmful and has a negative impact on society - particularly on law enforcement and the NHS.

"It also has a great effect on our children," he continued. "Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, comparing parents' attitudes to alcohol with their children's, found that even moderate drinking shaped the way our children went on to view alcohol. And it found that our children weren't being taught to recognise the impact drinking has on their health.

"To put this last point into context, the number of young women in the UK who are presenting with liver damage is growing at a considerable rate.

"And there is a much sharper end to all of this, too. If your parent has a problem with alcohol, you are far more likely to develop your own alcohol problem later in life, up to seven times more likely, in fact. It's a problem we regularly deal with at Addaction."

In 1987 advice on the maximum units of alcohol that could be consumed was introduced. It recommended 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women. A unit was defined as half a pint of ordinary-strength beer, a 25ml glass of most regular spirits or just under a standard glass of wine.

The advice was changed in 1995 and recommended that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units per day and women should limit their consumption to two to three units per day.

The new report says there "could be merit" in setting a lower limit for older people in the same manner as there are more specific rules for children and pregnant women.

The report highlights problems in understanding how many units of alcohol there are in a drink and acknowledges that more work is needed to help people understand the concept.

"There are sufficient concerns about drinking guidelines to suggest that a thorough review of the evidence concerning alcohol and health risks is due," the report says.

Chris Sorek, chief executive of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware, supported Miller's stance on helping people to better understand alcohol unit guidelines and how to use them.

"Drinkaware has developed tools to help people better judge how many units are in alcoholic drinks to support them to moderate their drinking," he said.

"Our online drinks calculator, MyDrinkaware.co.uk, has seen a 387 percent increase in sign-ups in 2011 compared to 2010 and 1.2 million visits have been made to the unit calculator page of our website in the last 12 months.

"We are already seeing that the tool supports behaviour change."

The Department of Health will consider the report's recommendations, said a spokesman.