Posts Tagged ‘alcoholic drinks’

liquor-264470_640Wine and Beer drinkers often like to tout the health benefits of their favorite pastimes. However, if you read the peer-reviewed studies on alcohol consumption and health, most aren’t very supportive of drinking. I’ve heard friends proclaim that in the “blue zone” Mediterranean region where people live long lives, wine is a central part of the diet. However, wine and alcohol are not common factors in all of the blue zones around the world such as Loma Linda California. Yes, there are some phytochemicals in wine, but there’s also phytochemicals in fruity snacks too- catch my drift? The point is that alcoholic beverages, like juices, and sweetened beverages, are low in nutrition and high in calories. Excessive and regular alcohol consumption has been associated with obesity, heart disease, cancers (especially throat and stomach), high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease.

OK so I know that this information is probably not going to stop you from having a few this holiday season (it’s not going to stop me!) To be fair as well, most of the studies linking alcohol to disease are population-based and not randomly controlled which is the research gold standard. Ethically, it’s really hard to randomly assign people to a drinking group if they haven’t touched alcohol and follow them to see if they get sick. Instead, epidemiologist often look at self-report surveys of drinking behavior (which are flawed) and compare with disease occurrence. Although many of these studies report that drinking is linked with health problems, most also conclude that there isn’t an association between MODERATE drinking and problems.

Moderate drinking is defined as 2 servings per day for men, and 1 serving per day for women. A serving is defined as 12 ounce beer (4 ABV), 5 oz of wine, and 1.5 oz of 80 (1/2 shot glass) proof distilled liquor. Each serving stands at about 150 calories each. Be sure to read labels- products with higher alcohol and added sugar will have far more calories. For example, a 12 oz fruit malt-liquor beer (8 ABV) may have as many as 350 calories compared to a 12 oz lite beer with only a 100 calories! However, since alcohol is not regulated by the FDA, there aren’t label requirements. You may have to visit websites such as Calorieking or ChooseMyPlate Supertracker to find out calorie or other nutrition information.

People with diabetes and other chronic diseases need to be especially cautious. Beer and wine can gradually raise blood sugar, and stimulate overeating. Again, label reading is key. Most 12 oz beers have about 12-15 grams of carbohydrate but flavored beers might have as much as 50g per 12 oz which is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar! Flavored drinks like Margaritas can be even worse. Distilled liquor is high in calories but low in carbohydrate, that doesn’t mean a person with diabetes should finish off a flask! Excess alcohol consumption can also lower blood sugar because it inhibits the liver’s ability to release glucose.

Here are some holiday drinking tips for you.

  • Just like with deserts, drink slowly and use all your senses to appreciate the product. Drink during or after meals to avoid overeating.
  • Read labels, and stick with sugar-free products, lite beers or white wine as much as possible.
  • If you have diabetes, check blood sugars before and after you drink to understand how alcohol impacts your blood sugars.
  • Most importantly, STAY OFF THE ROAD and be careful!! Accidents, falls and injury aren’t much fun for anyone during the holidays!!

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Wood County


Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Alcohol Fact Sheet. Retrieved from cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

American Diabetes Association. (2015). Alcohol. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/alcohol.html

U.S.D.A. (2015-2020) Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines-2015


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