Is a pint of beer really as fattening as two Mars bars?

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12 December
11:50
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinndombrowski/
December
2016

No. Two Mars bars contain 520 calories. Alcohol does contain calories and is often forgotten about when individuals consider their calorie intake. A pint of beer typically contains 208 calories and a medium glass of wine (175ml) contains 160 calories.

But people are becoming aware of the fattening aspect of alcohol. Increasingly healthcare messages concerning alcohol are focused on weight and appearance, especially for women, rather than the amount people consume. The calorific content then, not just the alcohol content. So, whilst alcohol does contain calories, no, it doesn’t contain as many as two Mars bars.

A lot of websites – NHS ones for example – actually combine the two messages for alcohol and calories consumed. But there are fewer that combine the two to include alcohol and food. It’s important to get this message across to the public. There is information containing the calorific content of alcohol that is freely available, but only if you want to find it.

"The general feeling in the UK and much of the Western world is that you’re just mentally and psychologically better adjusted if you’re part of a sensible drinking culture."

Of course there are a lot of positive health aspects associated with a pint, but they’re not really to do with physical health. In the UK we certainly see a certain level of alcohol consumption as a proxy for social health. Most of us tend to drink in a social situation rather than alone. So it becomes a proxy for all sorts of other things, like good social integration.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the health status of people who abstain is poorer – both mental and physical – than people that drink. Largely, this is because a small amount of alcohol doesn’t do you any great harm. We can’t get away from the link between alcohol consumption and a whole raft of illnesses. There’s no doubt about that. But you’re just as likely to get killed crossing the road. So it’s about risk. If you drink significantly more than a couple of pints a day, then yes, the chances of you getting breast cancer for instance increase significantly.

The general feeling in the UK and much of the Western world is that you’re just mentally and psychologically better adjusted if you’re part of a sensible drinking culture rather than an abstainer. One reason for this is that abstainers may include people who gave up drinking because it became problematic, and thus are automatically likely to have poorer outcomes.

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