The average American adult takes in 420kJ a day imbibing beer, wine or liquor, a new study finds.
Not everyone drinks that regularly, of course, but the research shows that about 30% of men and 18% of women aged 20 or older consume some form of alcoholic beverage on a daily basis.
On average, however, "people were consuming less than one drink per day," said study author Dr Samara Joy Nielsen, a senior service fellow at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
Many may not realise that even a little daily drinking can lead to weight gain over time, she said.
Drinking leads to weight gain
"Beverage kilojoules count for adults," Neilsen said. "We have forgotten that, and not examined what beverages are contributing to caloric intake among adults."
To put things into perspective, "a beer is 630kJ and a soda is 630kJ," she said. "Be aware of all of your kilojoules consumed for the day including coffee and tea, sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol."
The new report details patterns of alcoholic beverage consumption by US adults from 2007 to 2010. The findings are published in the November issue of the NCHS Data Brief.
How the study was done
Participants were asked to recount the number of drinks they had over a 24-hour period. Men were more likely to opt for beer than any other types of alcohol, while women seemed to prefer wine.
The 420kJ per day average represents about 16 % of total calories, the researchers noted. Not surprisingly, the biggest drinkers were men aged 20 to 39, who consumed 730kJ of alcohol per day, on average.
A little drinking is not necessarily unhealthy, and current US dietary guidelines suggest that moderate alcohol consumption - a drink per day for women and two drinks for men - can have a place in a healthy diet.
What the study found
The new findings suggest that most people are sticking to these limits. However, 20% of men and 6% of women consume more than 1260kJ worth of alcohol on a given day, which is more than two drinks and greater than the one drink specified in the dietary guidelines.
For the report, "one drink" equaled a 12-ounce serving of a beer or wine cooler, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of table wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
But even 420kJ per day can add up to overweight if people aren't careful, one nutritionist said.
Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said that 420kJ per day from alcohol translates to a 10-pound-per-year weight gain if the calories are in addition to their normal daily intake. "This data provides important information for helping consumers understand 'where are my calories coming from?'" she said.
Eric Rimm, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, agreed that the report is "a good accounting of the current drinking in the U.S. and the kilojoules that are derived from those beverages."
But he added that measuring alcohol consumption on a given day may not give the full picture when it comes to individuals. "On a given day when people eat French fries they may make up 25% of your total calories," Rimm said. "But most people don't eat French fries every day."
A healthy diet
Is your drinking pattern healthy or not? Find out at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
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