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All calories are not equal – labelling alcohol

British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) | British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT)

2 min read Partner content

BANT supports the labelling of calories in alcohol, but asserts it alone will not go far enough in addressing obesity.

The British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) supports and commends the recommendation that alcoholic beverages should be labelled with calorie information. We agree that unaware, and over indulgent alcohol consumption contributes greatly to the overweight and obesity epidemic in adults and indulgent young adults.

Increasing awareness through labelling, the linking of calories and units of alcohol, may have a positive effect to help curb excessive or unwarranted use of alcohol consumption. However, BANT does not hold to the populist notion of calorie watching as an effective long term way of controlling weight gain or health improvement, as it is not the number of calories but the quality of the calories consumed that is necessary to evaluate.

All calories are not equal and we are concerned this proposal may give the message that alcohol can be part of a calorie controlled diet. For example 350 calories from 2 pints of lager has a very different effect in the body to 350 calories from broccoli. Which is why calorie counting doesn’t work in the march against obesity, and calorie labels in isolation will not go far enough in addressing this issue.

When comparing drinks by caloric load, hard drinks like vodka have fewer calories than wine or beer, yet wine and beer may have a relative nutritional benefit. Consumers tend to consume hard alcohol with mixers that significantly increase their calorie intake.

BANT is concerned that steps are taken to ensure the reduction in the sugar loading on the nation’s diet which is the major contributor to the obesity epidemic and believe in the importance of establishing public awareness of the links between sugar, alcohol and co-morbid diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc)

BANT therefore proposes that a calorie label should be combined with the number of units of alcohol, and a red traffic light style label which the public already understands and can use effectively. These measures would reflect the nutritional value of the calories they are taking in (which is virtually zero) and help people better understand what they are consuming.

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