There are smartphone apps that can help you keep track of healthy habits, like how much exercise you do and the number of steps you take in a day. But how do you keep track of those not-so-healthy habits, like how much wine you guzzle? Well, now there's an app for that, too.
Developed by doctors in Singapore, the Alcohol Tracker is a smartphone app that lets users enter how many drinks they have each day. If a user drinks more than the maximum amount of alcohol recommended by certain health organizations, then the app will send a notification, warning that the recommended limit has been reached.
The app is aimed at helping drinkers better manage their alcohol intake, the researchers said. They developed it as a way to counteract the use of other apps like "Let's Get Wasted!" that are set up like interactive drinking games, and promote drinking. The developers noted that researchers have found that apps that promise to track users' blood alcohol content are highly unreliable. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]
The Alcohol Tracker app tracks a person's drinking habits on both a daily and weekly basis. That means users will be notified not only if they have too much to drink at Thursday's happy hour, but also if, come Tuesday, they've already consumed the recommended maximum amount of alcohol for the entire week.
Users simply tell the app how many beers, glasses of wine or shots they’ve consumed, and the app does the rest. Since these different beverages contain varying amounts of alcohol, the app converts every drink into a certain number of alcohol "units," based on guidelines established by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the United Kingdom and the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments.
Most alcohol-consumption guidelines recommend different limits for men and women. The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) recommends that women have no more than two to three units of alcohol a day, which is roughly equivalent to about 6 ounces (175 milliliters) of wine a day, according to the NHS. For men, the daily recommended maximum is slightly higher, at three to four units, which is equivalent to 19 ounces, or about a pint of strong beer or cider a day. (In terms of bottles of beer, that's less than two 12-ounce bottles.)
In addition to helping users track their alcohol intake, the new app also features links to resources that might help heavy drinkers cut back, such as the phone number for an alcohol help line. The app's developers also built in several tools aimed at helping users limit their consumption, including a questionnaire that helps people determine their risk of alcohol misuse.
The new app is described today (July 6) in the journal BMJ Innovations.
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Elizabeth is a former Live Science associate editor and current director of audience development at the Chamber of Commerce. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from George Washington University. Elizabeth has traveled throughout the Americas, studying political systems and indigenous cultures and teaching English to students of all ages.