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Want to Know the Calorie Content of Your Favorite Drink?

MONDAY June 30, 2008 -- A punishing run in the summer sun deserves an ice cold beer, right?

And the just reward for a strenuous afternoon whipping your garden into postcard perfection -- how about a slightly chilled chardonnay?

Well, before you pop that top or twist off that cork you might want to consult a new report, called Alcohol Facts, that has the lowdown on the amount of calories and carbohydrates -- and alcohol -- in America's top-selling brands.

"This is information consumers don't have right now," said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, which published the report. "This is a way to try to get that information about the alcohol content and calories and carbs to consumers."

For example, not all consumers know that a standard serving of the malt liquor Smirnoff Ice packs 241 calories, Waldrop said. "That's information they need, especially if they're watching their weight," he said.

Or that Seagram's Gin tops the list of spirits with 120 calories per 1.5-ounce serving, while Beringer Chardonnay and Gallo/Carlo Rossi Cabernet Sauvignon carry 120 calories per 5 ounce-glass.

To aid consumers, the federation developed a side-by-side comparison chart that shows the alcohol content, calories and carbohydrate content of the 26 best-selling alcohol products, spanning beer, wine and spirits. The chart details what's in a standard 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine and a 1.5-ounce serving of spirits. The chart is based on sales data from the Adams Beverage Group, and includes 13 brands of beers and malt liquors, five brands of wine, and eight types of liquor, including, gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey.

The alcohol content per serving ranged from 0.42 fluid ounces to 0.70 fluid ounces, depending upon the specific brand and type of alcoholic beverage. But, the calorie and carbohydrate content varied significantly.

Among spirits, calories per serving ranged from 86 for spiced rum (Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum) to 120 for gin (Seagram's). The average drink contained 98 calories.

Among wines, the calorie range per serving was 105 for a merlot (Franzia Vintner Select) to 125 for cabernet sauvignon (Gallo/Carlo Rossi) and chardonnay (Beringer). The average number of calories in a 5-ounce glass of wine was 118.

The greatest disparity in calories was among beers and malt liquors. Light beers averaged 100 calories per 12-ounce serving, regular beers averaged 140, while malt liquors ranged from 192 to 241 calories.

When it came to carbohydrates, the range was zero (for spirits), to 0.8 grams per serving for chardonnay and up to 5.0 grams for cabernet sauvignon.

Among beers, carbohydrate levels ranged from 3.2 grams per serving for light beer to 38 grams per serving for malt liquor.

"In the long term, we want to get this information on alcohol packages in a standardized format," Waldrop said. "With that information right there, consumers can make informed decisions."

One public health expert agrees that alcoholic beverages should be labeled with their calorie and carb contents, not just the alcohol content.

"Most Americans drink. Most Americans are weight conscious as well," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center. "Put these two facts together, and the calorie content of alcoholic beverages becomes a matter of general relevance. But it is a matter often overlooked."

More information

To view the Alcohol Facts chart, visit the Consumer Federation of America.

Posted: June 2008


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