The Garden City Telegram
11/19/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Calorie mix

Considering alcohol content, pop shouldn't be singled out.

Government looking to control consumption of sugary soda pop due to its calorie count also should target a comparable offender: alcohol.

Health experts say Americans get too many calories from soda. As a result, public health campaigns have zeroed in on pop and other sweetened drinks that contribute to unhealthy diets.

Concern over those calories and their link to obesity even led New York City to approve an unprecedented measure cracking down on giant-sized sodas.

Yet in the midst of such initiatives, little if anything is said about the calorie count in alcoholic drinks.

A new study showed adults get almost as many empty calories from alcohol as they do from soda pop. Alcoholic beverages account for about 5 percent of the calories adults consume — close to the 6 percent of calories they get from sweetened beverages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

A can of regular soda, for example, has about the same calorie count as a regular beer.

Of course, much focus has been placed on other potential threats that come with consuming alcohol, especially from the standpoint of becoming intoxicated and making poor decisions.

Concern over the nation's ballooning waistlines has been another important topic amid the disturbing fallout of unhealthy weight gain in such serious health problems as diabetes, heart disease and cancer — illnesses that exact a costly toll on society.

If government intends to encourage less consumption of sugary drinks as a way to rein in weight gain and control health-related costs, it also would be wise to consider calorie-laden alcohol.

But one plan from the Obama administration would exempt alcoholic beverages from proposed federal regulations requiring calorie labeling on restaurant menus.

That doesn't make sense. Restaurants would be required to list the calories on certain nonalcoholic beverages, but not alcoholic drinks that may have far more calories — leading some consumers to believe they're safer for consumption.

Educational campaigns that encourage people to make healthy choices help. Regular reminders on labels can't hurt.

Leaving alcohol out of the mix, however, sends a wrong and potentially dangerous message.