Will calorie information stop you drinking so much beer?

man-with-beer-bellyWould you like to know how many calories are in your beer? Apparently two thirds of us would like to know how many calories we’re drinking, and without that information, we are shockingly bad at guessing the number of calories in our favourite tipples.

A new poll of over 2,000 consumers from the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) found that  67% supported calorie labelling and that just 3% were opposed to knowing the potential effect of alcohol on your waistline. More than 80% of respondents didn't know or incorrectly guessed the calories in a large glass of wine,  topped only by the almost 90% who struggled to estimate the calorific content of a pint of lager. Just so you know, a 175ml glass of 13% ABV wine contains around 160 calories, and a pint of 4% lager around 180. Both are roughly equivalent to a glazed ring doughnut at around 170 calories.

The RSPH will now use the research to persuade new EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to introduce calorie labelling- from which alcoholic drinks are currently exempt as they are not food. No, not even Guinness. The European Commission has said it will make a decision on whether to extend nutritional labelling by the end of 2014.

“Calorie labelling has been successfully introduced for a wide range of food products and there is now a clear public appetite for this information to be extended to alcohol to help individuals make informed choices,” said RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer.

“With two in three adults overweight or obese and given that adults who drink get approximately 10% of their calories from alcohol, this move could make a major difference to waistlines of the nation. While we continue to back unit labelling for alcoholic drinks, we believe many people find calorie labelling easier to translate into their everyday lives.”

Alison Tedstone, of Public Health England, agreed: “Alcohol is almost as calorific as fat, which people don’t realise. If you think, if you have a couple of glasses of wine with a meal that’s like having an extra course.”

Alcohol Concern chief executive Jackie Ballard, who is naturally completely unbiased on the subject, said: “You walk into any shop and the calorie, fat content, sugar and more are on the back of food packets and we don’t see why alcohol should be any different.”

However, some groups are less keen on the idea. Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at advertisers’ industry body ISBA. “Today’s PR campaign confuses the binge drinking and obesity messages. Surely doctors and public health officials need to wonder why people do not understand the blindingly obvious that most food and drink will make us fat if we have too much and do not follow a balanced diet.” #truefact

We think everyone has missed two important facts here. Firstly, whether you drink a gin and tonic or a Cadbury’s Caramel, both estimated at around 213 calories, is going to be largely dependent on your mood and where you are, but the net calorific intake is going to be the same. However, eating a doughnut or a chocolate bar is less likely to convince you that you are, in fact, a smooth operator destined to show off your irresistible dance moves on the dance floor/pole/pub car park, an activity that will actually burn calories. So actually, alcohol is better for you than chocolate*…

Nevertheless, the RSPH said that tests showed that those given more information on calorific content drank 400 fewer calories by choosing different forms of alcohol. So would you drink less if you knew the effect on your daily calories? Or will you just keep putting them away to showcase your drinking prowess?

*not a scientific fact


  • Slacker
  • jim
    yeah - way to go - thanks for trying to take the fun out of my binge drinking. getting drunk on a friday and saturday is what i look forward to all week. dont need a frickin nanny state calorie counting on beer - we all know if you drink to much you end up fat ffs
  • Alf H.
    I'm gonna be healthy from now on and stick to whisky

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