Alcohol-free beer, wine and cocktails might help you power through dry January.
But they may not be the health kick you’re hoping for, experts have warned.
Despite not containing any booze, many of these alternative drinks are loaded with sugar.
MailOnline analysis shows alcohol-free drinks can contain up to 25 times more sugar per glass than similar alcoholic versions.
Eisberg Alcohol Free Blanc, which costs £3.25 for a regular-sized bottle, is designed to taste like a classic Sauvignon Blanc but with no alcohol, has 5.0g of sugar per 100ml. But Villa Maria’s Sauvignon Blanc White Wine, which costs £10, contains 0.2g of sugar per 100ml. Similarly, Heineken’s 0.0 Alcohol Free Lager contains 1.3g of sugar per 100ml. In contrast, a regular one contains 0g
For example, Eisberg Alcohol Free Blanc, which costs £3.25 for a regular-sized bottle and is designed to taste like a classic Sauvignon Blanc but with no alcohol, has 5.0g of sugar per 100ml.
But Villa Maria’s Sauvignon Blanc White Wine, which costs £10, contains 0.2g of sugar per 100ml.
Mocktails are also packed with the sweet stuff.
Mocktails Mockarita, one popular brand sold in British shops, contains 9.5g of sugar per 100ml.
This is almost 3g more than in a regular Moth margarita, an Alcoholic version sold in UK supermarkets.
The same brand’s Espresso Martini contains 12g of sugar per 100ml — the equivalent to 3 cubes of sugar.
Mocktails Espresso Martini contains 12g of sugar per 100ml, which is more sugar than a can of coke and more than a Red Bull
For comparison, this makes it more sugary than Coca Cola (10.6 g per 100ml) and Red Bull (11g per 100ml).
Alcohol-free beer can also contain more sugar than the real thing.
A regular Corona contains 0.2g per 100ml of sugar, whereas the alcohol-free version has over triple this amount (0.7g).
Heineken’s 0.0 Alcohol Free Lager contains 1.3g of sugar per 100ml. In contrast, a regular one contains no sugar.
A survey commissioned by Alcohol Change UK shows why people almost 9million people are planning on taking part in dry January and quitting the booze for 31 days
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
Non-alcoholic beers and wines are often higher in natural sugar due to the way they are made.
For example, when alcoholic wine is made most of the sugar from the grapes is fermented out.
But with the alcohol free-alternative, after the alcohol is removed sugar is often added back in to improve the taste.
Experts warn the subtle increase in sugars could contribute to people unknowingly tipping over the 30g of sugar per day NHS recommendations. Too much sugar in your diet can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian at Birmingham’s Aston University, advises that both alcoholic and sugary drinks should only be enjoyed in moderation.
He said: ‘It is also important to remember that our body is not great at recognising energy in sweet drinks, as it is from food, so can lead to increased energy intake and potentially weight gain.’
He would like to see more information available about the sugar content of both alcoholic and the non-alcoholic alternatives and also low sugar drinks developed ‘from herbs like mint to give strong grown up flavours without alcohol or sugar’.
Dr Mellor said: ‘It might feel that alcohol-free drinks are the best option. ‘Unless we are talking water, alcohol free drinks might not be quite as healthy as we might think.
‘Often these can be sweetened with large amounts of sugar, coming from things like syrups and fruit juices.
‘This can mean that they can contain a lot more sugar than the alcoholic version.’
He added: ‘Whilst sugar might not be quite as bad for the liver as alcohol, it can be the case that too many calories, especially in rapidly available forms such as sugar, are not great for liver health and excess intake has been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.’
Hattie Burt, policy and communications officer at World Action on Salt, Sugar, and Health, suggests switching to reduced sugar soft drinks over the often more expensive mocktails.
She said: ‘Zero/low alcohol products are excluded from the Soft Drinks Industry levy, which has successfully reduced the sugar content of normal soft drinks, so they are likely to be higher in sugar.
‘The high sugar content of some of these drinks highlights the need for alcohol and zero/low alcohol equivalents to be included in public health policies which would encourage companies to reduce sugar and calories.
‘More often than not they are excluded, for no good reason.’
Unlike most food and drink products, there is no legal requirement to display the sugar content of alcoholic drinks on the label. This means the reality would be ‘a surprise to most of us’, Ms Burst said.
Alcohol-free white wine, Eisberg Alcohol Free Blanc, contains 5.8g of sugar per 100ml and Torres Natureo De-alcoholised Red has 3.5g of sugar in it per 100ml. That means you could be consuming as much as 14g of sugar in a large glass of alcohol free wine
Almost 9million people are planning to give up booze temporarily this January, according to Alcohol Change UK. Stopping drinking lowers the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, gut problems, liver disease and sexual disfunction, according to Drinkaware
Almost 9million people are planning to give up booze temporarily this January, according to Alcohol Change UK.
As long as you stay wary of the sugar content of many alcohol-free drinks, experts say cutting out or cutting down will have long-term health benefits.
There are also plenty of short term benefits you may notice if you take part in dry January, with no hangovers being one of them.
Dr Harriet Leyland, at the healthcare app myGP, said: ‘Short-term health benefits of cutting down alcohol include reduced tiredness, lower blood sugar, and even weight loss.
‘Longer term, it reduces the risk of some cancers, liver disease, and heart disease.’
|Drink||Sugar g per 100ml||Total sugar per can / bottle||Calories per 100ml||Supermarket price|
|J20 Orange and passionfruit||4g||11g||19Kcal||£1.40|
|Fentimans Victorian Lemonade||7.9g||21.7g||39kcal||£1.55|
|Alcohol free drinks|
|Corona booze free||0.7g||2.1g||17kcal||£1|
|Birra Moretti Alcohol free||1.2g||3.96g||20Kcal||£1.20|
|Eisberg Alcohol Free Blanc||5.0g||37.5g||23Kcal||£3.25|
|Torres Natureo De-alcoholised Red||3.5g||26.25g||23Kcal||£4.72|
|Mocktails Espresso Martini||12g||24g||49Kcal||£2.40|
|Gordon’s 0.0 Alcohol Free & Tonic and a Hint of Lime||4.7g||11.75g||25kcal||£1.25|
|Jukes The Sparkling Red||3.4g||8.50g||22kcal||£4|
|Barefoot Pinot Grigio||0.57g||6.75g||74kcal||£6.75|
|McGuigan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon||0.51g||3.8g||72kcal||£7|
|Moth Espresso Martini||11g||13.75g||NA||£3.90|
DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK
One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.
The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.
Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.
8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).
16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.
Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.
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