A new report says that Americans get too many calories from soda (fizzy drinks). But what about alcohol? It turns out US adults get almost as many empty calories from booze as from soft drinks, a US government study found.
In the UK we drink a lot more than the US. Our consumption of pure alcohol is 13.37 litres per capita per year, where as in the US is 9.44 litres per capita per year so perhaps we too should take notice of this study.
Soda and other sweetened drinks — the focus of obesity-fighting public health campaigns in the US — are the source of about 6 percent of the calories US adults consume, on average. Alcoholic beverages account for about 5 percent, the new study found.
“We’ve been focusing on sugar-sweetened beverages. This is something new,” said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study’s authors. She’s an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released its findings today.
The government researchers say the findings deserve attention because, like soda, alcohol contains few nutrients but plenty of calories.
The study is based on interviews with more than 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007 through 2010. Participants were asked extensive questions about what they ate and drank over the previous 24 hours.
The study found:
- On any given day, about one-third of men and one-fifth of women consumed calories from beer, wine or liquor.
- Averaged out to all adults, the average guy drinks 150 calories from alcohol each day, or the equivalent of a can of Budweiser.
- The average woman drinks about 50 calories, or roughly half a glass of wine.
- Men drink mostly beer. For women, there was no clear favorite among alcoholic beverages.
- There was no racial or ethnic difference in average calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. But there was an age difference, with younger adults putting more of it away.
For reference, a 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories, slightly less than a same-sized can of regular Bud. A 5-ounce glass of wine is around 100 calories.
In September, New York City approved an unprecedented measure cracking down on giant sodas, those bigger than 16 ounces, or half a liter. It will take effect in March and bans sales of drinks that large at restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands.
Should New York officials now start cracking down on tall-boy beers and monster margaritas?
There are no plans for that, city health department officials said, adding in a statement that while studies show that sugary drinks are “a key driver of the obesity epidemic,” alcohol is not.
Health officials should think about enacting policies to limit alcoholic intake, but New York’s focus on sodas is appropriate, said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group.
Soda and sweetened beverages are the bigger problem, especially when it comes to kids — the No. 1 source of calories in the U.S. diet, she said.
“In New York City, it was smart to start with sugary drinks. Let’s see how it goes and then think about next steps,” she said.
However, she lamented that the Obama administration is planning to exempt alcoholic beverages from proposed federal regulations requiring calorie labeling on restaurant menus.
It could set up a confusing scenario in which, say, a raspberry iced tea may have a calorie count listed, while an alcohol-laden Long Island Iced Tea — with more than four times as many calories — doesn’t. “It could give people the wrong idea,” she said.
Back in 2009 the BBC reported that many in the UK were unaware of alcohol calories. Four in 10 did not know a glass of wine has the same calories (120) as a slice of cake, or that a pint of lager and a small sausage roll have 170 each.
The Department of Health carried out research showing a regular beer drinker, who downed five pints a week or 250 over the course of a year, packed away the same number of calories as someone eating 221 doughnuts over the space of 12 months.
It also revealed the average wine drinker consumed 2,000 calories each month. Over the course of a year, that is the equivalent of eating an extra 38 roast beef dinners.
Health minister Phil Hope said: “Regularly drinking more than our recommended daily limits can have a knock-on effect on our health, including an expanding waistline.
“It’s not only the calories in the drinks themselves that can help to pile on the pounds, we’re also more likely to eat fatty foods when we’ve had one too many.”
Heather Caswell, of the British Nutrition Foundation, added: “Most people would baulk at consuming a full glass of single cream, but wouldn’t think twice about a couple of pints.
“But the calorie content is similar and, over time, excess alcohol intake is likely to lead to weight gain.”
And a spokesman for the Drinkaware Trust added: It’s imperative we are in the know when it comes to what we are drinking. “
Year Without Beer
The Olympics may be over, but my Year Without Beer isn’t! I am spending all 366 days of this leap year alcohol free in an attempt to raise money for 2 charities that are both very close to my heart.
If giving up all alcohol for a year isn’t enough of a challenge to make you dig deep and show your support, I’ve also completed a challenge to run 500 miles! As part of my running challenge I have completed a quarter marathon, a 10 mile road race (Great South Run) and am signed up to do an 8 mile off road challenge (The Grim Original).
If you want to show some love them please donate to my year without beer and give your support to one of these fantastic causes:
- To donate to Cancer Research UK please click here to visit my just giving page or donate by text – send AYWB66 and the amount to 70070. For example, texting “AYWB66 £5″ will donate £5.
- To donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust please click here to visit my just giving page or donate by text – send AYWB55 and the amount to 70070. For example, texting “AYWB55 £5″ will donate £5.