Anstie's Limit

Anstie's limit (Anstie's rule or Ansties alcohol limit) refers to the amount of alcohol that Francis E. Anstie, M.D., (1833-1874) believed, on the basis of his research, could be consumed daily with no ill effects. It is 1.5 ounces of pure ethanol, equivalent to two and one-half standard drinks of beer, wine or distilled spirits.

Francis Anstie was a leading medical researcher in England who was editor of The Practioner and a member of the editorial board of The Lancet. "His stature in the medical world was such that he was offered several professorships in American medical schools."1

Anstie identified his famous limit in 1864, but temperance writers strongly opposed it because they promoted complete abstention from all alcoholic beverages. With the passage of time the temperance movement grew increasingly powerful and interest in Anstie's limit declined.

In 1926, Dr. Raymond Pearl accidentally discovered something even more important about Anstie's limit: Those who consume alcohol within that limit tend to enjoy better health and live longer than those who either abstain from alcohol or abuse it. Dr. Pearl's ground breaking research occurred during the middle of National Prohibition (1920-1933) and therefore, received little attention. Nevertheless, over time, an increasing volume of research has found that consumption within Anstie's limit is associated with health and longevity.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has completed an extensive review of current scientific knowledge about the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption. It found that the lowest death rate from all causes occurs with moderate drinking. That is consistent with the medical consensus that, unless contraindicated, moderate drinking promotes both good health and a long life.

Although temperance activists opposed it, Anstie's limit has been vindicated by scientific medical research.


  • 1. Baldwin, A.D. Anstie's alcohol limit. Journal of Public Health, 1977, 67(7), 680.

Readings on Anstie's limit (Anstie's rule, Anstie's alcohol limit, Anstie's limit of sensible drinking):

  • Anstie's limit. Alcohol Problems and Solutions Glossary
  • Babor, T.E., et al. Social drinking as a health and psychosocial risk factor. Anstie's limit revisited. Recent Developments in Alcoholism, 1987, 5(373), 373-402.
  • Baldwin, A.D. Anstie's alcohol limit. American Journal of Public Health, 1977, 67(7), 679-681.
  • Ball, D., et al. In celebration of sensible drinking. Drugs: Education, Prevention, Policy. 2007, 14(2), 97-102. Discusses Anstie's limit.
  • Bradley, K.A., et al. How much is too much? Advising patients about safe levels of alcohol consumption. Archives of Internal Medicine, 1993, 153(24), 2734-2740. Describes Anstie's limit.
  • Buzzard, T. The Late Dr. Anstie. Practitioner, 1876, 16, 1-43. Obituary of Dr. Anstie.
  • Chafetz, M.E. Why Drinking Can be Good for You. NY: Stein & Day, 1976. Discusses Anstie's limit.
  • Edidemiology. Cheers! (editorial) Epidemiology, 1990, 1(5), 337-339. Discusses Anstie's limit.
  • Fisk, E.L. Alcohol and life insurance. Atlantic Monthly, 1916, 118, 624-634. Describes use of Anstie's limit in actuarial analyses.
  • Hunter, A. effects of alcohol on longevity. Medical Review of Reviews, 1915, 21, 16-25. Describes use of Anstie's limit in actuarial analyses.
  • Kranzler, H., and Babor, T. The identification and treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 1990, 2(4), 229-238. Discusses Anstie's limit.
  • Marczynski, K., et al. Prevalence and determinants of alcohol-related problems. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 1999, 25(4), 715. Discusses Ansties limit.
  • Symonds, B. Albuminuria in life insurance. American Journal of the Medical Sciences. 1898, 115(4), 377-383. Describes use of Anstie's limit in predicting mortality rate.
  • Thompson, V. Drink and be Sober. NY: Moffat Yard & Co., 1915. Discusses Anstie's limit.
  • Publications Related to Anstie's Limit by Dr. Francis Anstie
  • Francis E. Anstie. Is it food, medicine, or poison. Cornhill Magazine,
    1862, 5, 707-716.
  • Francis E. Anstie. Does alcohol act as a food? Cornhill Magazine.1862,6, 319-329.

filed under: Alcohol and Health