Anstie’s Limit (Anstie’s Rule or Ansties Alcohol Limit)

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.

Dr. Anstie

Anstie's limit
Francis E. Anstie (1833-1874)

Francis E. Anstie was a leading medical researcher in England. He 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. But temperance activists strongly opposed it. That’s because they wanted complete abstention from all alcohol. With the passage of time the temperance movement grew increasingly powerful. Thus interest in Anstie’s limit declined.

Dr. Pearl’s Discovery

Anstie's limit
Dr. Raymond Pearl

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  Prohibition (1920-1933). As a result, it received little attention.

But, over time, more and more research supports Anstie’s Limit. Studies have found that drinking within Anstie’s limit promotes health and long life.

Anstie's limit
Standard Drinks

A federal agency (NIAAA) reviewed medicalevidence about about moderate drinking. 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 medical research.

Resources on Anstie’s Limit

Web Pages

Anstie on Alcohol

    • Francis E. Anstie. Is it food, medicine, or poison. Cornhill Mag, 1862, 5, 707-716.
    • ______________. Does alcohol act as a food? Cornhill Mag, 1862, 6, 319-329.


    • Babor, T., et al. 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. Pract, 1876, 16, 1-43. Obit of Anstie.
    • Chafetz, M. Why Drinking Can be Good for You. NY: Stein & Day, 1976.
    • Cheers! (ed) Epid, 1990, 1(5), 337-339.
    • 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.


1. Baldwin, A. Anstie’s alcohol limit. J Pub Health, 1977, 67(7), 680.