We’ve all heard, read, observed or lived horrific stories about alcoholism and how heavy drinking leads to everything from cirrhosis of the liver to brain death, and even high blood pressure according to an article published Friday by WEDU. However, there is relatively little attention paid to weight gain as it relates to the ingestion of wine, liquor and beer. In 2014, the FDA required establishments with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts of their alcoholic beverages on menus by Dec. 2016.
Even though chain restaurants, movie theaters, pizza parlors, vending machines and amusement parks across the nation are now required to do so, Americans focus on the more flamboyant health warnings like how alcohol impairs driving and operation of machinery and can make you really sick if you drink too much too often. Alcohol’s lesser-known sin is it’s propensity for adding girth to the midsection. While the aforementioned establishments are required by law to give you a heads up about the calories in their giant margaritas, happy-hour, two-for-one cold drafts and amaretto almond liqueurs, the large glasses of wine and various mixed drinks enjoyed by Americans in their homes across the country aren’t posted. Experts say such adult beverages figure huge in weight gain and obesity. “Alcoholic beverages are a key contributor to the calories Americans are consuming, and most of the time when people have a drink they have absolutely no idea what its caloric impact is,” says Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Most beers do list caloric intake per preserving as part of ingredients, but in letters so tiny that the over 40 crowd, which figures prominently in consumption, must use reading glasses to see how many calories they are ingesting. At about 100 calories per bottle, light beer has one of the lowest calorie counts per serving found in alcoholic beverages. Nonetheless it’s that “per serving” reference that converts to a variable that could lead to, let’s say, uncle Leo ingesting upwards of seven or 800 calories on Super Bowl Sunday or any given Sunday for that matter. Meanwhile, roughly 80 per cent of drinkers have no idea that they are consuming roughly 228 calories per large glass of wine and nine in 10 are unaware that a pint of lager contains around 180. Craft beers are among the worst caloric offenders. The average American and nondrinkers will likely have no problems with obesity due to their alcohol intake. However, the highly variable key to caloric intake is the same with alcoholic beverages as it is with other foods and nonalcoholic drinks. Before an alcoholic goes to his or her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting they could be consuming 1,500+ calories per day from alcoholic beverages alone, which certainly explains the origin of the “beer belly” metaphor.” Advocates like the Local Government Association (LGA) say all alcoholic drinks should have calorie counts on their packaging to help fight obesity. On the other hand, it might be difficult to judge caloric intake of a mixed drink made at home since people often come up with their own mixed drink concoctions and often name them with great pride.
The LGA lobby group, which represents local authorities, said its research showed the public was less aware of the “hidden” calories in alcohol than they were about its potential to cause illness. The calories obtained in these adult beverages are “empty” calories because they hold no nutritional value and alcohol also reduces the amount of fat burned for energy, according to LGA. Even those who eat and drink healthily are not always aware that those extra pounds may be coming from alcoholic beverages. Just a couple of drinks each day loosens inhibitions against over-consumption and adds an extra 4,000 calories per week without mentioning that extra snack a buzz nearly mandates. This accounts for more than the total recommended caloric intake of a 24-hour period. Those of us who made weight loss a resolution this year may want to crank up the treadmill another notch to cover adult beverages that often come in underneath the radar.