The real rea­son beer is mak­ing you fat

Herald on Sunday - - WE SALUTE YOU - Niki Bez­zant u@nikibez­zant Niki Bez­zant is ed­i­tor-at-large for

The beer in­dus­try has launched a cam­paign to help us fall back in love with beer. “Beer — the beau­ti­ful truth” is fronted by a sev­eral high-pro­file Ki­wis in­clud­ing Olympic rower Eric Mur­ray.

On the face of it, it’s in­tro­duc­ing us to the fact that beer now fea­tures nu­tri­tion la­bels.

This is a vol­un­tary move by some beer com­pa­nies; al­co­holic bev­er­ages are not re­quired to fea­ture nu­tri­tion la­bels by law. They’re do­ing it, they say, to help con­sumers make “in­formed choices” and to com­bat the “bad rap” beer has had re­cently from peo­ple think­ing it’s high in su­gar.

La­bels now fea­ture the state­ment “This beer is 99% su­gar free”.

That’s tech­ni­cally true, of course, but it’s a pretty non­sen­si­cal state­ment.

Beer does not con­tain much su­gar, and it never has. A 330ml bot­tle of beer has 1g or less of su­gar in many cases.

Nor are carbs a huge is­sue in beer; most beers are rel­a­tively low in car­bo­hy­drate. Low-carb beers are a tri­umph of mar­ket­ing over sub­stance.

A “75 per cent less carbs” beer from Speight’s, for ex­am­ple, does in­deed con­tain 2g of carbs ver­sus 8g in one of their other stan­dard beers.

But you’re sav­ing a neg­li­gi­ble amount of calories: 27 calories or 113 kilo­joules in a bot­tle. Hardly enough to shrink a beer belly.

It’s not the carbs or the su­gar in beer that make us fat and causes us harm, and it has never been.

It’s the al­co­hol.

Al­co­hol has nearly twice the en­ergy of su­gar: 1g of al­co­hol pro­vides 7 calories (29kJ) com­pared to 1g of su­gar with 4 calories (17kJ).

And al­co­hol is the thing that’s the toxin, strongly linked with in­creased risk for six types of can­cer and re­spon­si­ble for over 600 deaths a year in New Zealand.

These are facts this slick new cam­paign neatly glosses over.

While al­co­hol’s en­ergy con­tent and safe drink­ing guide­lines are men­tioned on the web­site, the “truth” they are em­pha­sis­ing is around su­gar and car­bo­hy­drates.

The cyn­i­cal among us might ob­serve that this cam­paign seems de­signed to en­cour­age us to drink more beer, not less. It’s giv­ing us li­cence to do so by jump­ing on to the pop­u­lar low-su­gar band­wagon and at­tempt­ing to turn beer into a healthy choice.

I’m not anti-beer. I en­joy an oc­ca­sional brew.

I think it is a good thing to put nu­tri­tion la­bels on beer, and it’s prob­a­bly some­thing the wine in­dus­try should look at do­ing, too (wine, in­ci­den­tally, also con­tains less than 1tsp of su­gar a glass).

If that in­for­ma­tion helps us think twice about hav­ing a sec­ond or third beer, that’s good. But don’t be fooled by the mar­ket­ing claims. And don’t for­get to look at the rest of the la­bel too.

The most im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about beer — the al­co­hol con­tent — has al­ways been on the la­bel.

And when it comes to health, we are far bet­ter off ig­nor­ing claims of low su­gar or low carb, and go­ing for low- or noal­co­hol op­tions.

Healthy Food Guide.

It’s not the carbs or the su­gar in beer that make us fat and causes us harm — and it has never been.


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