Alcohol – the forgotten factor in weight gain

Whether it’s a large latte, a fruit smoothie or a couple of margaritas, it’s easy to forget that liquids have kilojoules and that a couple of 150 millilitre glasses of wine with dinner is the kilojoule equivalent of eating a doughnut on the side. But the introduction of kilojoule counts on some brands of beers may help to change that.

Lion began rolling out nutrition information panels on the label and outer packaging of its Australian beers such as Hahn, XXXX, Tooheys and Jam es Squire in August. Its decision may pave the way for other alcohol manufacturers to do the same.

It makes sense – if we can have nutrition panels on soft drinks, why not on alcohol too?

For the record, the lower the alcohol content of a beer, the lower the kilojoules – 375 millilitres of full-strength beer weighs in at 536 kilojoules compared to 386 kilojoules for the same size low-strength beer. Mid-strength beer is in the middle with 450 kilojoules per 375 millilitres.


But the number of kilojoules in alcohol are only one way that it can contribute to kilo creep. There’s also “disinhibition” – the lofty term for alcohol’s knack of melting any resolve not to order dessert or finish an entire packet of chips. But there’s also something about drinking alcohol that makes us want to eat more, says Professor Helen Truby from Monash University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Department.

“Any food that you put in your gut releases hormones and peptides that then send a message to the brain to either eat more or to eat less, and research has found that, compared to drinking fizzy water before a meal, drinking alcohol before food signals the brain to eat,” she explains.

Then there are the kind of foods that often go hand in hand with drinks in pubs and clubs – fatty, fried and high in kilojoules. Combine this with alcohol’s appetite-stimulating effects and you have a recipe for consuming too many kilojoules with too few nutrients, says Truby, who thinks that creating low-cost healthy snack foods for this market might help trim a few waistlines. Next year she will begin a new research project to develop and test snack foods that are more nutritious but with fewer kilojoules.

“For example, a food that’s higher in protein so it’s more filling compared to chips – although it would have to be less expensive than nuts,” she says.

But along with the kilojoule tally in each glass, the way in which we drink alcohol can make a difference to our weight, Truby says. While we might sip a glass of wine over half an hour or so, a shot slips down in a matter of seconds so it’s easy to drink more kilojoules. Mixing soft drink with your spirits also boosts the energy count, with about 900 kilojoules for a 375 millilitre spirit mixer (like rum and cola). Drink two of those and you’ve had the kilojoule equivalent of a cheese and ham roll – but without the filling power.

“With the rise in obesity, everyone in Australia needs to manage their weight and alcohol is part of this picture,” Truby says. “It’s very energy dense and it contains more kilojoules per gram than either protein or carbs. While alcohol has 29 kilojoules per gram, protein and carbohydrates have only around 16 kilojoules per gram. It’s the forgotten factor in weight gain yet it contributes to small incremental gains in weight that add up over time.”


Original Article : Alcohol – the forgotten factor in weight gain

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