Alcohol Calories Nearly Equal to Soda, Says New Study

You won’t want to drink to this.

A government study released Thursday found that Americans get almost as many empty calories from booze as from soft drinks.

Soda and other sweetened drinks are the source of about 6 percent of the calories adults consume on average. The new study unveils alcoholic beverages account for about 5 percent.

“We’ve been focusing on sugar-sweetened beverages. This is something new,” said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study’s authors. Ogden is also an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Government researchers say the findings deserve attention because, like soda, alcohol contains few nutrients, but plenty of calories.

The study is based on interviews with more than 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007 to 2010. Participants were asked extensive questions about what they ate and drank over the previous 24 hours.

According to the study:

• About one-third of men and one-fifth of women consumed calories from beer, wine or liquor.

• The average guy drinks 150 calories from alcohol each day, or the equivalent of a can of Budweiser.

• The average woman drinks about 50 calories, or roughly half a glass of wine.

• Men mostly drink beer. For women, there was no clear favorite among alcoholic beverages.

• There was no racial or ethnic difference in average calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. But there was an age difference, with younger adults putting it more of it away.

For reference, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 140 calories, which is slightly less than a same-sized can of regular Bud. A 5-ounce glass of wine is around 100 calories.

In September, New York City approved a measure cracking down on giant sodas, those bigger than 16 ounces, or half a liter. It will take effect in March and ban sales of drinks that large at restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands. There are no plans for the city health department to also crack down on tall alcoholic beverages. Officials note that sugary drinks are “a key driver of the obesity epidemic,” and alcohol is not. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest states officials should consider creating policies to limit alcoholic intake, but the focus on sodas is appropriate.

Soda and sweetened beverages are the number one source of calories in the U.S. diet, she also notes.

“In New York City, it was smart to start with sugary drinks,” said Wootan. “Let’s see how it goes and then think about the next steps.”

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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