This was covered in The Telegraph in April and also in The Express where Professor Fiona Sim said the trend towards larger wine glasses meant few people realise how many calories they are consuming and she warns it is fuelling the obesity epidemic. Read the original BMJ article here
The fashion for large wine glasses has fuelled a rise in the number of ‘invisible’ calories people are inadvertently consuming through alcohol, the chair of the Royal Society for Public Health has warned.
Professor Fiona Sim said that the slow increase in the volume of glasses meant few people realise how much they had consumed, or were aware how calorific alcohol can be.
A 175ml glass of wine contains around 160 calories, the same amount as a slice of madeira cake, but many bars and restaurants now serve wine in large 250ml glasses or even larger.
It means that drinking just two large glasses of wine is more calorific than a portion of MacDonald’s fries as well as exceeding the recommended daily alcohol intake for women.
Prof Sim is calling for a new law which would force drinks companies and restaurants to include calorie information on bottles and menus.
Since 2011 all packaged food in the European Union has had to include nutritionally information, including calorie counts, but alcohol above 1. 2 per cent is exempt.
“Among adults who drink an estimated 10 per cent of their daily calorie intake comes from alcohol,” Prof Sim wrote in the British Medical Journal.
“With the insidious increase in the size of wine glasses in bars and restaurants in the past decade it seems likely that many of us have unwittingly increased the number of invisible calories we consume in alcohol.
“Information provided to consumers must be honest and useful. Alcohol content in units and calorie content in calories should be included on both drinks labels and menus.
“There are no reason why calories in alcohol could be treated any differently from those in food.”
Prof Sim is also calling for doctors to start asking patients about the calorie content from alcohol as well as food, to get a better picture of lifestyle. Calories from alcohol is rarely included in lifestyle and obesity assessments.
The European Union is currently considering whether to remove the exemption for alcohol and was due to report back in December, but has so far not ruled on the issue.
A recent survey found that 80 per cent of the 2,117 adults questioned did not know the calorie content of common drinks, and most were completely unaware that alcohol contributed to the total calories that they consumed.
Most respondents were in favour of calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks.
The US Food and Drug Administration has mandated calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks from December 2015 in US restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets.
On this side of the Atlantic the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 will, if passed, make Ireland the first EU country to insist on calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks.
And MEPs have backed calls for calorie labels to be put on all alcoholic drinks in a vote at the European Parliament
I have no doubt that she is right and that asking people about alcohol consumption during health assessments could give some interesting insights! What do you think of her view?
And it’s not just the glass size and absence of calorie information on the bottle. This new research also says that
The study in the journal Obesity, which is published by The Obesity Society, found that alcohol sensitizes the brain to the aromas of food, and that leads to overeating.
Edited to add: 9th January 2016
We want to hear from people who: are at risk of, or worried about, alcohol-related liver disease or have or have had alcohol-related liver disease | JLA, UK
If you are concerned then do the survey and this will influence future research 🙂
Edited to add 7th June 2016:
Underestimating the Alcohol Content of a Glass of Wine: The Implications for Estimates of Mortality Risk
[Open access]. The alcohol content in a wine glass is likely to be underestimated in population surveys as wine strength and serving size have increased in recent years. We demonstrate that in a large cohort study, this underestimation affects estimates of mortality risk. Investigator-led cohorts need to revisit conversion factors based on more accurate estimates of alcohol content in wine glasses | Alcohol and Alcoholism, UK
People drank more wine when served in larger sized glasses, even when the amount of wine was the same | Independent, UK
How big is your glass? It’s well known that serving food and drink using larger crockery and glasses can make you consume more, but can bars and restaurants cash in on this trick, using it to make you buy more? | New Scientist, UK
Edited to add: 8th October 2016
Edited to add: 6th Feb 2017
A new study published in Nature Communication by the Francis Crick Institute investigated whether a link between alcohol intake and overeating could be determined. The researchers found that ethanol triggers hunger signals in the brain and sustains “false ‘starvation alarms’” meaning alcohol makes your brain think it is hungry. Independent
Edited to add: 17th Jan 2018