There have been fresh calls to print calorie information on alcoholic beverage packaging in a bid to reduce obesity in Britain.

The average adult drinker gets about 10 per cent of their daily calorie intake from alcohol, while around two thirds of UK adults are either overweight or obese, putting them at risk of developing serious medical conditions.

A survey of 2,000 people by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that eight out of ten respondents had no idea, or wrongly estimated the calorie content of their alcoholic drink. It now wants calorie information to be publicly displayed on restaurant menus, beer mats and pumps.

Of course, the ability to communicate information effectively to the right audience at the right time is essential in a profession such as PR. Although drinks manufacturers are required to display alcohol content, alcoholic drinks are exempt from calorie labelling under EU legislation because they are not a produced food.

Nevertheless, alcohol is relatively high in calories, with 7 calories/gram, second only to fat at 9 calories/gram. So for a standard drink, 70 calories are being consumed via alcohol alone, before considering other sources of calories in drinks such as sugary mixers or cocktail concoctions. A large glass of wine, for example, contains as many calories as a chocolate doughnut.

The lack of awareness around the calorie content in alcohol not only highlights the risks arising from a discrepancy between perception and reality, but demonstrates the importance of equipping people with the right information at the right time to enable them to make informed choices.

In trials, the RSPH found that drinkers consumed 400 calories less on average during a night out when the drinks had calorie labels on them – either by cutting back on high calorie drinks, or drinking fewer alcoholic drinks in total. With the cost to the NHS of caring for obesity-related conditions ever rising, the RSPH argues that alcohol’s role in contributing to obesity can no longer be ignored.

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