Low Carb Beer – Too good to be true?
In the last decade, there has been an influx of low carbohydrate beers to the market – a concept that appeals to many men and women who are trying to manage their weight or lose weight. However, when push comes to shove – is low carbohydrate beer really a better option or is it a clever marketing ploy?
The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation conducted a national survey on consumer’s views of low carb beer1. The survey was run in 2010 and showed the following results:
- Of those surveyed, 71% considered low carb beer to be ‘healthier’ than its full strength counterpart
- Over a third thought low carb beer was healthier than light beer (lower alcohol)
- Consumers reported being more inclined to drink greater amounts when they know they are drinking low carb beverages
- Participants generally thought low carb beer would be better for weight management
Why these results are a cause for concern
It is the way that people perceive these lower carbohydrate beverages that is the biggest problem.
- Firstly, the fact that individuals chose the word ‘healthier’ to describe them. There are no health benefits linked to the consumption of low carbohydrate beer. Any beverage containing alcohol that is consumed in excess can increase the risk of cancer, liver disease and other diseases.
- People think they can drink more to make up for the carbs they are “saving” by not drinking the full strength version. This means they are consuming more alcohol and hence kilojoules than they normally would be drinking standard beer.
- A disturbing 20% of individuals thought low carb beer also had a lower alcohol content than regular beer1.
Lower in carbohydrates but how much lower in energy (kilojoules)?
Results showed that people consider a low carb beer option to be better for weight management than regular beer. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is in fact the alcohol that is contributing the highest amount of energy, not the carbohydrates at all! Beer is relatively low in carbohydrate to begin with. The alcohol could therefore be the blame for weight gain, not the carbohydrate content.
To make this point clearer:
Additionally, alcohol cannot be stored in the body and is therefore turned in to energy. This means that any energy that is not burned off will be converted to fat and let’s face it, a night of heavy drinking would be very hard to work off!!
So what does this mean…
Ideally men should have no more than 2 standard drinks on any one day and no more than 1 for women. Both men and women should have at least 2 alcohol free days per week.
If you would like to make a better selection – choose low alcohol beer over low carb beer! However, if you are not inclined to choose a beer low in alcohol, a low carbohydrate option will be somewhat better than regular beer if you drink it wisely. Alternatively, swap it up between low alcohol and low carb.
For more information on what you have read or any other nutrition queries, contact the ENT Clinic on 1300 123 368 and make an appointment with our dietitian Belinda Elwin.
1. VicHealth. Australians Fooled By Low Carb Beer Myths: Australia-First Survey. VicHealth. December 2010.