American alcoholic consumption and other fairy tales

by Denis Faye | November 16, 2012

(Disclaimer: I’m going to talk about booze today. If you’re not into it, don’t stress. I agree that excessive alcohol consumption is bad, it’s a slippery slope, don’t drink and drive, mothers against drunk driving, 4-year-olds should only drink at Thanksgiving and at funerals, etc. Now on with the show.)

Some of you more libation-oriented Nerd Herders may have noticed a new CDC study on American alcohol consumption. Here are a few highlights.

The Associated Press reported on the study with a rather weird slant:

Americans get too many calories from soda. But what about alcohol? It turns out adults get almost as many empty calories from booze as from soft drinks, a government study found.

It appears that the AP Staff Nutrition Writer was hungover the day that this story was due, so the AP Staff Use-Buzz-Words-Inaccurately Writer took the gig. The calories in beer and wine are hardly on par with, say, broccoli, in terms of quality–but they’re certainly not “empty.” Here’s another buzz word for ya, anonymous AP Writer–“French Paradox.” Wine is a source of the phytonutruent antioxidant resveratrol. Meanwhile beer has small amounts of a number of nutrients (provided we’re talking about the craft brewed, non-chemically kind) and works as a prebiotic, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut. Then there are the many studies showing the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, including…

I recall no similar research for soda.

In fact, at first I was stoked with the results of this study because it means that most Americans are consuming alcohol moderately and, hopefully reaping the benefits. Then I read the research methodology–interviews asking 11,000 people what they consumed over the previous 24 hours–and my heart sank. When it comes to epidemiological studies like this, there’s always one, big confounding factor: People lie. “Hi, I’m doing a ‘survey’ for Big Brother–I mean, The US Government. Can you please tell me how much you drank last night?”

Do you seriously think that you’re going to get a straight answer for that question from someone who knocked back five glasses of chianti watching The Voice last night and was just hiding the empty bottle at the bottom of the recycle bin when the phone rang? Alcoholism is a hideous, destructive disease and most people suffering from it are in self-denial. Why do you think they’d tell someone else the truth?

I’ve been giving advice in the nutrition world for over a decade now while simultaneously living in the real world. It never ceases to amuse me how the two don’t synch when it comes to alcohol consumption. No one ever, ever, ever lists booze on the diet records.

In other words, this study isn’t something we need to fret about. It’s something we need to aspire to.

2 thoughts on “American alcoholic consumption and other fairy tales

  1. Erin Buttermore

    At a recent exhibit we ran through my work, there was an interactive game where people could attempt to pour a standard glass of wine or beer and then check their accuracy with a measured jug. Most poured 1.5 to 2 times as much.
    So relying on people’s estimates of how much they drink is unreliable even if they weren’t under reporting to sound healthier.

  2. LeAnn Woodward

    My daughter and I were just talking about this very thing last night. She went to the doctor for a pulled muscle and of course they always ask the questions about drinking and smoking. Everyone of her friends lie she told me. She told the doctor the truth about her consumption and her occasional smoke at a bar but most people will give the picture they want the outside world to see. If you were to look in my recycling bin it would appear we are a bunch of winos! But we only take the glass out once every few months so 10-12 wine bottles for three adult wine drinkers in that time isn’t too bad in my opinion. lol. 🙂


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