Alcohol is a very hard to avoid feature of western culture. Social gatherings in many countries are almost invariably lubricated with wine or beer, and if you have a really active social life, that can put a big strain on your liver.

The weekly intake of alcohol recommended by doctors is actually quite low. For a start they recommend two alcohol-free days in the week. Then, for a healthy woman, the limit is one standard (12 ml) glass of wine per day, or a total of five in a week; and for a healthy man the limit is two standard glasses of wine per day, or ten in a week.

In a convivial social atmosphere it can be difficult to stay within these constraints. But there are strategies you can use to help you cut down your intake.

“Rule number one is to drink slowly”, says Michaela Goecke from the Federal Centre for Health Education in Cologne, which helped to develop an awareness campaign under the banner “Know Your Limit”.

“Don’t finish off your alcoholic drink, and don’t allow hosts to pressure you into accepting a fresh one,” she says. “If you find yourself in a round with others, try to turn it into a bit of a game and be the slowest drinker in that group. And if you are offered a freshener, delay it, say you’ll have one later, and if you’re lucky, they’ll forget altogether.”

She believes many people use alcohol as a thirst-quencher, which is a big mistake. “Mineral water or fruit juice is a much better option,” says Goecke, and adds “always have a glass of water in your hand.”

She says it’s a good idea to talk about the advantages of not drinking too much when declining the offer of ‘just one more glass’. “Phrases like ‘if I stop now I won’t get a hangover’ and ‘my body will thank me for it tomorrow’ are really useful,” says Goecke, “and emphasise the health benefits - particularly if you’re prone to a health condition like hypertension.”

Of course you don’t to come across as a killjoy - and you want your host to know that you’ve had a good time. So, our expert recommends a conciliatory departure. “Tell them that you’ve had a good time, and that you really enjoyed the alcohol you did drink - praise the quality of the wine or the beer.”

But, in the end, Goecke believes you will need to be strong: “If you don’t want a drink, don’t be pressured into having one.” - dpa