'Unseen' calories in alcohol give drinkers food for thought
Drinkers can consume more calories in a night out than their entire daily allowance, an obesity expert has warned.
People can fail to consider the amount of calories in alcohol when they are calculating their daily intake, said Professor Donal O'Shea, endocrinologist at St Colmcille's Hospital in Dublin.
"They will consider a gin and tonic which has 160 calories to be the same as an Americano coffee which has four."
A night out having two pints amounts to 380 calories. A glass of wine clocks up 120 calories.
It means that "a few tipples" can add up to 600 liquid calories - before eating anything.
The more people drink, the less concerned they are about the nutritional content and the calories they are piling on.
"Many people in Ireland have more than this and reach over 1,000 calories in alcohol consumption before they have any food," he said.
"Before you know it, your total daily calorie allowance of between 1,600-2,000 calories has been consumed in one sitting. As a result, alcohol is helping fuel the obesity epidemic."
He was speaking as the HSE launched a website, Askaboutalcohol.ie, for the public to help people better calculate how much alcohol they are drinking and what they are doing to their health.
"I am delighted to see this website and campaign being launched, and delighted that we are adopting a clear position and language with which to talk about alcohol in Ireland," said addiction expert Dr Bobby Smyth.
"Alcohol causes cancer, alcohol hurts our mental health, alcohol harms many people in our society.
"Language like 'drink responsibly, moderation, sensibly' - we know from our research that these are meaningless and don't offer any true guidance.
"People want health advice from health experts, and we hope that this site and this campaign will offer just that."
The Government's long-delayed bid to overhaul alcohol laws has promised to make it mandatory to put calorie content on drinks, but it is caught up in lobbying from campaigners who believe many parts of the proposals are too severe.
Dr Marie Laffoy, assistant national director of the HSE's cancer programme, said the research showed public awareness about the link between alcohol and cancer was low.
"Drinking alcohol regularly increases the risk of seven different cancers; mouth, pharyngeal (throat), oesophageal (gullet), laryngeal (voicebox), breast, bowel and liver. Alcohol is responsible for one in eight breast cancers in Ireland and 900 people are diagnosed with alcohol-related cancers each year. Askaboutalcohol.ie is an independent, reliable source of information regarding the link between alcohol and cancer."
Health Promotion Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said the measures in the Public Health Alcohol Bill would help create a supportive environment for making healthier choices when it came to alcohol. "Ultimately, together, we want to reduce the enormous burden of alcohol-related harm on Irish families."
Dr Mark Murphy said young men and women often presented to their GP with a serious healthcare problem, caused by alcohol, unaware that their intake of alcohol was the reason for their complaint. They included mental health symptoms.