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Alcohol ‘should carry calorie information’

Slimming World | Slimming World

5 min read Partner content

Clear labelling that shows how many calories are in alcoholic drinks must be introduced to fight obesity, new research suggests.

Slimming Worldsaid public health campaigns must also do more to link drinking with obesity.

It has produced new research on how drinking too much alcohol can impact on weight-affecting lifestyle behaviours.

Slimming Worldruns more than 11,000 groups held weekly nationwide via a network of more than 3,800 consultants who receive specific training in dietary aspects and the role of physical activity in weight control.

The research revealed that drinking beyond a personal ‘tipping point’ leads many of us to consume 6,300 extra calories in food and alcohol over 24 hours.

Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World’s Head of Nutrition and Research,said:

“Alcohol stimulates appetite, makes us want to eat more unhealthy foods and lowers our inhibitions, all of which can lead to us making unhealthy choices – without even realising how many more calories we’re consuming.”

The research includes of a new survey conducted with YouGov which revealed that the average tipping point occurs at just 9.3 units of alcohol – equivalent to 3.7 pints of beer or 3.1 large glasses of wine.

Around half of drinkers say they have a tipping point and passing this point causes them to make unhealthy choices with food and to drink more alcohol than intended.

They consume an extra 2,829 calories in food and 1,476 calories in alcohol the same day, plus another 2,051 extra calories in food the following day.

As well as the additional 6,300 calories, half also cancel physical activity in favour of watching TV, staying in bed or spending time on social media.

Dr Lavin said:

“When we drink beyond our tipping point we’re likely to continue to eat unhealthily the next day, cancel physical activity plans and have disrupted sleep.

“With the average tipping point typically occurring after only three to four drinks it’s clearly very easy for people to drink enough alcohol to experience these changes in their behaviour.

“The government has stated its commitment to tackling both obesity and binge drinking, but we believe more needs to be done to increase people’s awareness of the link between the two.

“Our research suggests that people who consume large amounts of alcohol in a single sitting are more likely than people who drink within the recommended guidelines to pass their tipping point, which could lead them to drink more, eat more and be less active.”

With estimates suggesting that consuming an extra 3,500 calories is equal to gaining around 1lb in weight, the energy imbalance caused by taking in 6,300 extra calories and burning fewer calories off through activity could be equal to a weight gain of around 2lbs per week in the 58% of people who pass their tipping point on an average weekend.

Research included in the report reveals that alcohol stimulates appetite and weakens resolve, causing people to eat more without realising. Chips are the most popular food for people after passing their tipping point, with pizza, kebab, hamburger and crisps close behind.

Respondents also reported that they were more likely to have a poorer quality sleep, which has also been linked with obesity.

These combined issues are placing a huge strain on the NHS, with the cost of treating conditions associated with obesity estimated at £5.1bn and treatment costs associated with alcohol estimated at £3.5bn. The costs to the wider economy are even greater.

Slimming Worldwants government and health authorities to improve the links between public health campaigns on obesity and alcohol by raising awareness of how drinking too much alcohol can impact on weight-affecting lifestyle behaviours.

It also wants clear labelling that shows how many calories are in alcoholic drinks - research among 2,616 Slimming Worldmembers (people actively making healthier choices) found that 86% believe adding a calorie count to alcohol labels would be successful in helping raise awareness of the link between alcohol consumption and obesity.

Slimming Worldmembers already have the benefit of a programme that has been designed to increase their awareness of how too much alcohol can impact on their weight in the same way as too many high energy dense foods,” said Dr Lavin.

“This helps them to change their behaviour and navigate towards moderate drinking. More needs to be done to make information available to the general public.

“We believe that implementing our two recommendations would have a significant impact on making people more aware of how alcohol can impact on their weight and help to tackle the two major public health issues of obesity and excessive alcohol consumption.”

Commenting on the links between alcohol and obesity, Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said:

“Alcoholic drinks have a high calorie content and excess calorie intake can lead to being overweight and obese which increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

“PHE recommends eating a healthier diet, being more physically active and reducing alcohol intake to help us live a longer, healthier life. Our flagship Change4Life campaign has a useful online drinks checker to help you to reduce your alcohol consumption in line with the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations.”

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