A new report from Euromonitor International states that the people of Britain are consuming more calories through alcoholic drinks than through sugary soft drinks.
The research team recorded data from 24 countries, analysing calorie consumption from different sources. The report found that the average Briton consumes 98 calories per day by way of drinks high in sugar, such as cola and lemonade, but 106 calories per day from alcohol.
The nation whose alcoholic calorie intake is highest is South Korea, with 144 calories a day consumed in alcohol; they consume just 44 per day through soft drinks. Only one country – Taiwan – consumed more calories from fizzy drinks than alcoholic drinks. While sugary drinks have been heavily criticised publicly, and cited as a major cause of adult obesity in the UK, alcohol has avoided being labelled quite as strongly as a cause of weight gain. This is likely due to the fact that, unlike foods and soft drinks, alcoholic drinks are not forced to declare their nutritional information on the packaging.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the alcohol health alliance, said: “In the UK, alcoholic drinks above 1.2 per cent ABV are currently exempt from having to provide calorie information. This research demonstrates clearly that this exemption should now end.”
Euromonitor’s nutritional expert, Sara Petersson, stressed that this does not mean soft drinks are blameless. She said: “It is very interesting because the whole reason why soft drinks are under attack is because they are liquid calories. We don’t have a compensatory mechanism that says we should eat less after drinking them.
“It works the same way with alcohol and, if anything, not only does it have a worse health effect, but it is an appetite stimulant which makes you eat more. That is not to take anything away from the need to reduce sugar. That is crucial because it is a very important source of weight gain.”
In recent years, fizzy drinks manufacturers, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have come under attack for the high sugar content in their products. The health concerns raised by sugary drinks has even lead former Chancellor George Osborne to impose a sugar tax.
Euromonitor’s research has also found that the campaign against sugar has also lead to an increase in the sales of healthy snacks, and that sales of sugary snacks had the slowest growth since 2008.