Anstie’s limit is the amount of alcohol that Dr. Francis Anstie found could be consumed daily with no ill effects. It is 1.5 ounces of pure ethanol. That’s equivalent to two and one-half standard drinks of beer, wine or distilled spirits. That’s because each has 0.6 of an ounce of pure alcohol.
Francis E. Anstie was a leading medical researcher in England who was editor of The Practioner. Anstie was also 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, based on his research. However temperance activists strongly opposed it. That’s 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.
Dr. Pearl’s Discovery
In 1926, Dr. Raymond Pearl discovered something very important about Anstie’s limit. That is, those who consume alcohol within that limit tend to enjoy better health and live longer. That’s in comparison with those who either abstain from alcohol or abuse it.
Dr. Pearl’s ground breaking research occurred during the middle of National Prohibition (1920-1933). As a result, it received little attention.
Nevertheless, over time, an increasing volume of research supports Anstie’s Limit. Studies have found that drinking within Anstie’s limit promotes health and longevity.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is the lead U.S. agency on alcohol. It 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’s consistent with the medical consensus that 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.
Resources on Anstie’s Limit
- Babor, T., et al. Social drinking as a health and psychosocial risk factor. Anstie’s limit revisited. Rec Dev Alco, 1987, 5(373), 373-402.
- Baldwin, A. Anstie’s alcohol limit. Am J Pub Health, 1977, 67(7), 679-681.
- Ball, D., et al. In celebration of sensible drinking. Drugs: Ed, Prev, Pol, 2007, 14(2), 97-102.
- Bradley, K., et al. How much is too much? Arch Inter Med, 1993, 153(24), 2734-2740.
- Buzzard, T. The Late Dr. Anstie. Practitioner, 1876, 16, 1-43. Obituary of Dr. Anstie.
- Chafetz, M. Why Drinking Can be Good for You. NY: Stein & Day, 1976.
- Cheers! (ed) Epid, 1990, 1(5), 337-339.
- Kranzler, H., and Babor, T. The identification and treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. Ann Clin Psychi, 1990, 2(4), 229-238.
- O’Neill, S. Anti-drink lobby drew up official safety limits. Controversial guidance ‘induces public fear.’ Sunday Times, May 30, 2016.
- Symonds, B. Albuminuria in life insurance. Am J Med Sci, 1898, 115(4), 377-383. Use of Anstie’s limit in predicting death rate.
- Thompson, V. Drink and be Sober. NY: Moffat, 1915. Discusses Anstie’s rule.
Dr. Anstie Also Earlier Wrote about Alcohol:
- Francis E. Anstie. Is it food, medicine, or poison. Cornhill Mag, 1862, 5, 707-716.
- Francis E. Anstie. Does alcohol act as a food? Cornhill Mag, 1862, 6, 319-329.
1. Baldwin, A. Anstie’s alcohol limit. J Pub Health, 1977, 67(7), 680.