You may have noticed a lot of news in recent years about rising obesity levels and apparently decreasing activity levels. Sugar and carbohydrates continue to be scrutinised for their weight-gain effects while the debate between the contrasting low-fat vs the low-carb-high-fat diets continue.
Understandably, alcohol is gaining more attention in this regards too and is considered to contain 7 calories per gram. In our more health-conscious society today it makes sense we could benefit from knowing the calorie content of our frequent tipple.
Due to the fact that alcoholic drinks are not recognised as food they are exempt from food labelling. However, before the end of 2014 the EU commission is due to make a decision about extending nutrition labelling, including calorie labelling, on alcohol.
Zoë Harcombe, a researcher and blogger on nutrition and obesity, published a very interesting article earlier this month about this topic. Her post follows her typically thorough structure, including a detailed summary of research results, statistical analysis and personal opinion. Here are some interesting highlights:
Not every calorie is the same and is handled by our bodies in different ways. Alcohol is seen by the body as a toxin and wants to get rid of it asap and is digested (mostly) in the liver and kidneys, not in the digestive system. Therefore alcohol calories do not have the same effect as sugary drink calories.
Contrary to some media claims a glass of wine is not the same calorific value as a slice of pizza.
Zoë suggests this new angle to promote calorie value in alcohol is an attempt to reduce the level of consumption in the general population, drinking less is apparently healthier. This should of course be relative to the amount of alcohol being consumed and to include the many variable health factors for each individual.
Some other research Zoë points to about the correlation between alcohol consumption and weight gain leads her statement:
Current drinkers had lower odds of obesity. Those drinking one or two drinks per day had approximately half the incidence of obesity compared to non drinkers. The odds of obesity were significantly lower for the frequent drinkers.
She qualifies all of this by stating that this is not advice to increase alcohol calories in place of food calories, which would be a futile health strategy.
Her intention in her article seems mainly to point out that we don’t actually have any solid evidence that supports claims that reducing alcohol consumption will in fact lead to a reduction in weight. A good looking reference, if you are wanting to know more facts and details about alcohol and body weight, would be this book released last year - The Good News About Booze
The author addresses 25 years worth of major studies reviewing alcohol and weight and the impact on important conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Well then, in part I'm delighted with this news but common sense tells me that 'heavy' boozing is still not a good idea. There is another unqualified reference -'Heavy boozing', what's heavy for me might be light for others. I don't drink every night but I do enjoy a glass of vino now and then. An ice cold beer goes down a treat on a warm summers day.
With Christmas and the festivities creeping up on us I'm preparing myself for the shift in routine. I have to admit I do allow myself to stray some distance from my usual and purposeful eating plan. But I'm ok with this because it's a time with family and friends and celebration. Next week I'll share a post about how to limit the negative effects of high insulin levels by controlling blood sugar better during such festive times.