The real reason beer is making you fat
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.