Column: Are smaller glasses drink solution?

Us Brits love our local pubs
Us Brits love our local pubs
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A study by Sheffield and Liverpool scientists shows that smaller drinking glasses in pubs could reduce binge drinking across the UK.

A reduction in the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages in pubs could reduce the amount of alcohol consumed over a single evening, according to a recent study from the University of Liverpool and the University of Sheffield. Smaller glasses containing 25 per cent less beer, cider or wine reduced the total amount of alcohol consumed by 20 per cent.

Researchers noted how a reduction in the serving size of food has been shown to result in less food consumed over time, and wondered whether this was also the case for alcohol. Britain’s binge drinking levels are among the highest in the world.

In their study, scientists monitored participants’ alcohol habits in both a laboratory setting and in a local bar in Liverpool. In the lab, volunteers were unknowingly given a standard or a reduced size of beer, cider or wine. Standard drink sizes were in accordance with typical UK measures, with 2.07 units of alcohol. However, those who were given a reduced serving received a 25 per cent reduction in their drinks, containing only 1.55 units. Over the course of an hour, participants on reduced servings drank 22.3 per cent less alcohol than those who received standard measures.

Participants were also invited to a local bar, to take part in a pub quiz. The quiz ran over four nights, with two nights serving standard drink sizes, and two nights only serving smaller glasses. Volunteers were randomly allocated to an evening and were unaware of the reduced serving sizes. Again, reduced drinks contained less alcohol than their standard counterparts, with pints served in a two-thirds pint glass, and wine in a 125ml glass, compared to the standard 175ml.

Over three hours,volunteers’ alcohol consumption was carefully monitored. There was no cap on the number of drinks that could be bought, so those who attended the reduced alcohol quiz nights could have ordered more. However, at the end of the quiz, those who attended the restricted evening drank up to 39 per cent less alcohol than those who received standard glasses.

Researchers have suggested reducing the standard size of glass offered to consumers may lead to a reduction in alcohol consumption during single evenings, potentially tackling the UK’s binge drinking crisis.

Further research and predictions suggest a simple reduction of 25 per cent in a ‘standard’ glass could also lead to a decline in alcohol-related accidents and deaths. Alcohol-related hospital admissions could decrease by as much as 10.5 per cent, and deaths could be reduced by 13 per cent.

These research findings are more relevant than ever, as recent research reported in the Sheffield Telegraph also found NHS recommendations for alcohol consumption each week are too high. Six glasses of wine a week are still sufficient to cause significant declines in health.