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Middle-aged wine drinkers are urged to aim to have at least two days off alcohol every week

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 10/09/2018 Jamie Phillips

More than two thirds admitted they would find cutting down on alcohol harder to do than other healthy lifestyle changes such diet improvements, exercising, or quitting smoking. © Provided by Shutterstock More than two thirds admitted they would find cutting down on alcohol harder to do than other healthy lifestyle changes such diet improvements, exercising, or quitting smoking. Middle-aged people who enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner should abstain from alcohol on certain days during the week, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

The warning comes as PHE and Drinkaware officials launch a new “Drink Free Days” campaign designed to help people cut down on drinking alcohol by choosing to abstain on more days.

It comes as a YouGov poll found one in five UK adults are drinking above the chief medical officers’ low risk drinking guidelines.

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While more than two thirds admitted they would find cutting down on alcohol harder to do than other healthy lifestyle changes such diet improvements, exercising, or quitting smoking.

The campaign has been announced despite Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, being accused of having a "nanny state" attitude when she told MPs at a Science and Technology Select Committee hearing in 2016 that women wanting a glass of red wine should think: “Do I want the glass, or do I want to raise my risk of breast cancer? I take a decision each time I have a glass.”

She later apologised over the poorly-worded warning before health chiefs admitted that moderate drinking is no more dangerous than driving.

Dame Sally also oversaw the sharp reduction in recommended weekly drinking limits for men, from 21 units down to 14, to fall in line with the number for women.

Watch: Things that happen when you stop drinking alcohol (Cosmopolitan UK)

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Though these drinking guidelines further fuelled accusations of nanny stating and scaremongering, with the guide including advice not to drink before climbing a ladder.

The guidelines also came under fire from the Royal Statistical Society for ruling that even low levels of drinking did not offer men any protective benefit, when experts producing the guidelines had said a unit a day could cut strokes and heart disease.

However, in recent years there has been growing evidence linking alcohol consumption with cancer among other health risks.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “Many of us enjoy a drink - but whether it’s a few in the pub after work a couple of times a week, some beers on the sofa watching the football or regular wine with our dinner - it’s all too easy to let our drinking creep up on us.

“While the link with liver disease is well known, many people are not aware that alcohol can cause numerous other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease as well as several cancers.”

Drinking alcohol regularly can also increase the number of calories consumed and can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Drinking alcohol regularly can also increase the number of calories consumed and can contribute to weight gain and obesity. © Provided by Shutterstock Drinking alcohol regularly can also increase the number of calories consumed and can contribute to weight gain and obesity. John Barnes, the former England and Liverpool footballer, has lent his support to the campaign.

He said: “This campaign highlights how many of us don’t realise that we are drinking in ways that could be harming our health and how we are struggling to moderate.

“A beer here and a glass of wine there might not seem like much, but the units can add up and so too can the health risks.

“Having a few more days a week that are drink free is a great way of taking control of our drinking and making healthier choices for the future.”

Evidence from behavioural science has suggested that simple and easy ways of helping people to change their behaviour are the most effective. By targeting the omission of drink from single days at a time, it is hoped that the campaign is clear to follow, positive and achievable.

Related: The 17 Most Ignored Cancer Symptoms in Women and Men (Woman's Day)

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