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I recently read in MerseyAle, the CAMRA Liverpool & Districts magazine, that Scotland's policy of minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol to tackle problem drinking has completely failed in its aim. Five years on, a new study has concluded: “The introduction of MUP in Scotland did not lead to a decline in the proportion of adult drinkers consuming alcohol at harmful levels.”

When MUP was launched in 2018, quite a few of us suggested that it was unlikely to achieve the results that its promoters were predicting. It has long been known that problem drinkers who are under financial pressure are more likely to cut back on other expenditure rather than reduce their alcohol intake.

The recurring emphasis on problem drinking actually detracts from the fact that moderate consumption of beer can produce many benefits for your health and well-being. Beer is a rich source of vitamins (especially B vitamins), fibre, mineral, and antioxidants which all contribute to a healthy diet. Additionally, beer is the only significant dietary source of hops, so you can gain all the beneficial effects of hops only from beer. Unlike most alcoholic drinks, beer tends to have a relatively low alcoholic strength and it can play a vital role in a consumer’s quality of life.

Moderate drinkers have a substantially lower risk of cardiovascular disease which is the leading cause of death in Europe. They have a 30-40% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to teetotal people. The World Health Organisation has described this as the “most important health benefit of alcohol”. This is probably because the amount of ‘good cholesterol’ (i.e. high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) in the blood increases when alcohol is consumed: one glass of beer a day can significantly increase HDL cholesterol levels.

Drinking alcohol in moderate amounts is effective in reducing stress and tension and this leads to increased feelings of well-being. Moderate alcohol consumers have been found to experience a greater variety of psychological benefits from consuming alcohol compared to abstainers or heavy drinkers. Many studies have shown increases in sociability and friendliness following moderate alcohol consumption, and this positive benefit is enhanced when beer drinking happens in a social environment such as the Great British Pub, a valuable institution that undoubtedly helps combat loneliness and isolation.

All of this shows how there are two sides to every coin. Cheers!

Neville Grundy
Southport & West Lancs CAMRA