One of the world’s biggest beer makers is keen for you to know that beer contains less ‘bad stuff’ than you might realise, but experts warn that doesn’t quite make it the elixir of life.
Lion, responsible for beer brands James Squire, Tooheys, XXXX and Hahn, has announced it will start labelling its beers with nutrition information, promoting the fact its beers are on average 99.9 per cent sugar-free.
A Lion spokesman told The New Daily that the company’s beers are products that can be “enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle” when drunk in moderation.
“With Christmas and New Year fast approaching and the increase in social occasions, people will want to be mindful about their alcohol choices during this time,” Lion marketing director Ben Slocombe said.
“Choosing a beer is a good moderate option because it can be enjoyed as part of the healthy, balanced lifestyle.”
It’s an appealing prospect for the current sugar-conscious population, driven by Sarah Wilson’s best-selling book I Quit Sugar and the recent documentary, That Sugar Film.
But leading nutritionist Rosemary Stanton from the University of New South Wales said the sugar claims were nothing more than a marketing trick aimed at drawing attention away from the real dangers of beer.
“It seems to me that they’re cashing in on the current interest in sugar … But there’s never been sugar in beer,” she said.
Instead of sugar content, Dr Stanton said to look somewhere else on Lion’s labels.
But the good news? Moderate drinking can be perfectly fine, as the beer maker claimed.
Beer isn’t all bad
Although it’s widely blamed for causing weight problems, beer can also have certain health benefits.
A 2015 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found moderate drinking can decrease the chance of heart disease and heart attack, while research by the American Diabetes Association found moderate drinking can reduce your chances of type two diabetes.
Meanwhile, a Dutch study found moderate drinking could improve B6 levels, which contribute to your immune and digestive systems.
But beware – each of the studies emphasised that tee-totalling during the week didn’t make up for downing 10 drinks on the weekend.
What to look for
From now on, the sugar, fat, carbohydrate and sodium content will all be readily available to conscientious beer drinkers.
However, Dr Stanton said there were only two components in the beer consumers needed to check.
“It’s all about the alcohol content and the kilojoules,” Dr Stanton said.
The nutritionist said it was a popular misconception that carbohydrates in beer make people put on weight.
“It’s the alcohol content. The lower the alcohol content, the lower the kilojoules.”
She said while alcohol content is currently labelled on Australian beer, nutritionists were pushing to have kilojoule information on there too.
Food and beer
The infamous ‘beer gut’ might have more to do with the burger we’re eating than the pint we’re washing it down with.
“People don’t drink a beer and eat a salad,” said Dr Stanton, who emphasised the importance of the food choices we make while drinking beer, and that alcohol can often trigger a food blowout on nights out.
“Alcohol doesn’t actually get converted into fat, it stops your body from burning anything you’re eating with it,” she said.
Basically, those couple of beers you sink with your fish and chips on a hot night are doing more than you think.
As for the insatiable ‘midnight munchies’ you feel after a night on the booze, scientists in the UK this year discovered that alcohol interferes with the appetite control sensors in your brain.
With the knowledge that alcohol content is the culprit in beer, Dr Stanton said certain light beers can be a better option.
However, she did warn that some low alcohol beers contain extra carbohydrates to watch out for.
Unsurprisingly, drinking alcohol responsibly is all about moderation and being informed.
As an overweight country, Dr Stanton said we needed to acknowledge the part alcohol plays in our collective weight problem.
“There’s no point cutting your kilojoules but still drinking six beers,” she said.
“Drinking one beer or two is fine. The problem is, many people don’t stop at that.”