Remember alcohol calories, New Year dieters told
2 January 2013
People who have embarked on a New Year resolution to lose weight may not be aware that alcohol accounts for nearly ten per cent of total calorie intake among drinkers, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has warned.
Losing weight is one of the most popular resolutions but many of those starting diets don’t know how many calories are contained in alcoholic drinks and fail to include them when assessing their calorie intake.
It is little known that alcohol is second only to fat for calorie value, containing 7kcal/g compared to 9kcal/g for fat.
Kate Mendoza, Head of Health Information at WCRF, said: “The calories in alcoholic drinks account for a significant proportion of a drinker’s calorie consumption while providing little, if any, nutritional benefit. Cutting down on drinking can have a big effect on weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.
“Recent reports have shown that people are unaware of calories in drinks and don’t include them when calculating their daily consumption.”
She added: “This is important from a cancer perspective because, after smoking, being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor.
“There is also strong scientific evidence that alcohol itself is a cancer risk factor – possibly through damaging our DNA – in cancers of the breast, bowel, mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver.”
While some evidence suggests small amounts of alcohol can have a protective effect on the heart, the benefits only outweigh the risks for those particularly at risk of heart disease such as men over 40 or post-menopausal women. And drinking is particularly harmful when combined with smoking.
WCRF has produced an alcohol calorie calculator for different drinks that gives the number of calories as well as providing an easily understandable comparison. For example, a pint of lager equals three chocolate digestive biscuits. http://www.wcrf-uk.org/cancer_prevention/health_tools/alcohol_calorie_calculator.php
WCRF recommends that, if consumed at all, alcoholic drinks should be limited to two for men and one for women a day.
Tips for reducing alcohol intake include: opt for the smallest serving size; dilute alcoholic drinks with soda water or a low-calorie soft drink; switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks; aim to keep a few nights each week alcohol-free.
Notes to editors:
- Alcohol accounts for nearly ten per cent of calorie intake among adults who drink. National diet and nutrition survey: headline results from year 1 of the rolling programme (2008/2009), Food Standards Agency, 2009.
- Relationship between alcohol and obesity needs to be better understood in order to tackle the public health consequences. Obesity and alcohol: an overview, National Obesity Observatory, 2012.
- Survey found many people unaware of how many calories they consume in the form of alcoholic drinks. Alcohol and calories, Alcohol Concern Cymru, 2010.
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World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) raises awareness that cancer is largely preventable and helps people make choices to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
This includes research into how cancer risk is related to diet, physical activity, and weight management, and education programmes that highlight the fact that about a third of cancers could be prevented through changes to lifestyle. For more information on the charity’s work, visit www.wcrf-uk.org
The WCRF report, called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, was launched in November 2007 and is the most comprehensive report ever published on the link between cancer and lifestyle. For more information, visit www.dietandcancerreport.org
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