NEW YORK, N.Y. - 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.
Soda and other sweetened drinks — the focus of obesity-fighting public health campaigns — are the source of about 6 per cent of the calories adults consume, on average. Alcoholic beverages account for about 5 per cent, the new study found.
"We've been focusing on sugar-sweetened beverages. This is something new," said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study's authors. She's an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which released its findings Thursday.
The government researchers say the findings deserve attention because, like soda, alcohol contains few nutrients but plenty of calories.
But a liquor trade association said the findings indicate there's no big problem.
"This research shows that the overwhelming majority of adults drink moderately," Lisa Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council, said in a statement.
The CDC study is based on interviews with more than 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007 through 2010. Participants were asked extensive questions about what they ate and drank over the previous 24 hours.
The study found:
—On any given day, about one-third of men and one-fifth of women consumed calories from beer, wine or liquor.
—Averaged out to all adults, the average guy drinks 150 calories from alcohol each day, or the equivalent of a can of Budweiser.
—The average woman drinks about 50 calories, or roughly half a glass of wine.
—Men drink mostly beer. For women, there was no clear favourite among alcoholic beverages.
—There was no racial or ethnic difference in average calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. But there was an age difference, with younger adults putting more of it away.
For reference, a 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories, slightly less than a same-sized can of regular Bud. A 5-ounce glass of wine is around 100 calories.
In September, New York City approved an unprecedented measure cracking down on giant sodas, those bigger than 16 ounces, or half a litre. It will take effect in March and bans sales of drinks that large at restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands.
Should New York officials now start cracking down on tall-boy beers and monster margaritas?
There are no plans for that, city health department officials said, adding in a statement that while studies show that sugary drinks are "a key driver of the obesity epidemic," alcohol is not.
Health officials should think about enacting policies to limit alcoholic intake, but New York's focus on sodas is appropriate, said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group.
Soda and sweetened beverages are the bigger problem, especially when it comes to kids — the No. 1 source of calories in the U.S. diet, she said.
"In New York City, it was smart to start with sugary drinks. Let's see how it goes and then think about next steps," she said.
However, she lamented that the Obama administration is planning to exempt alcoholic beverages from proposed federal regulations requiring calorie labeling on restaurant menus.
It could set up a confusing scenario in which, say, a raspberry iced tea may have a calorie count listed, while an alcohol-laden Long Island Iced Tea — with more than four times as many calories — doesn't. "It could give people the wrong idea," she said.
CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
Related on HuffPost:
Looking for ways to burn that unwanted fat? Find yourself some cayenne pepper, says <a href="http://taramillernutrition.com/">holistic nutritionist Tara Miller</a>. Cayenne pepper can apparently speed up your metabolism by 25 per cent, according to 3FatChicks.com. Miller suggest mixing cayenne pepper with water, fresh lemons, a little sea salt and a bit of maple syrup for sweetness.
For liver health, Miller recommends drinking beet juice. Beets have zero trans and saturated fats and are packed with <a href="http://voices.yahoo.com/15-health-benefits-beets-fight-cancer-more-805501.html?cat=51">magnesium, calcium and iron</a>, according to Yahoo News.
Flax oil is great for sharpening our brains, Miller says. She recommends mixing flax oil (packed with omega 3 fatty acids) with your favourite fruit smoothie — you won't even taste the difference.
Think green! Miller says for bone health, opt for drinks that contain vitamin K — she suggests making the greenest juice of all: kale juice.
First Thing In The Morning
Your first drink in the morning shouldn't be a cup of coffee. Miller says water with lemon cleanses our liver, stimulates bile and helps with digestion in our bodies.
Middle Of The Day
When 4 p.m. hits, our bodies are usually ready to take a nap. For a much-needed energy boost, Miller says green tea will give you a tiny boost of caffeine, with a high amount of antioxidants.
Before You Sleep
For those of you who usually have to deal with a long and tiring day, Miller recommends drinking a calming tea with chamomile or lavender to soothe your senses before snooze time.
Before Your Workout
Miller says before you work out, think carbs. "Your drink should contain more carbohydrates than protein to deliver quick usable energy for your workout," she says. Dates and date juice is a good example of a high carb fruit that also lowers your blood pressure.
After Your Workout
Here's a post-workout smoothie you can prepare in advance: Blend coconut water (good for hydration), hemp, frozen blueberries, frozen bananas and raw cocoa powder to get an instant boost of flavour and antioxidants, Miller says.
When You're Sick
You won't need a lemon for this one. When you're stuck with a cold or sore throat, Miller recommends licorice tea (a plant related to the beans and pea family) to help soothe sore throats and eliminate mucus.
When You're Cold
Can a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate actually keep you warm on a cold day? There is some truth to this, Miller says, adding that drinking a hot cup of tea with warming spices like chai makes the perfect heat source.
Fun nights usually end in not-so-fun mornings. If you're trying to fight that hangover, Miller says drink a beverage with high amounts of electrolytes — like coconut water.
If you're dealing with cramps, one natural way to relieve the pain is by drinking beverages with high amounts of magnesium, Miller says. Try making your own homemade hot chocolate with raw cocoa powder, almond milk and honey or maple syrup for a sweet taste.
For all the pregnant ladies, Miller recommends drinking something high in folic acid and omega 3. One study showed that women who get 0.4 milligrams of folic acid daily during early pregnancy reduced the risk that their baby will be born with a <a href="http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/your_pregnancy/preg_folic_acid.html">neural tube defect (incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord) by up to 70 per cent</a>, according to KidsHealth.org. Millers suggests a power smoothie with raw cacao, frozen bananas, sugar free peanut butter, spinach (both have folic acid), almond milk and flax seed oil.
When You Eat Something Spicy
Sure, water can put out the fire, but so can dairy products. If you're trying to get rid of the burning sensation in your mouth after a spicy meal, try a mango lassi (an Indian-based yogurt drink) with coconut yogurt, and if you're vegan or lactose, try out coconut milk.
If your daily commute feels like a roller coaster, Miller says you can calm your stomach and reduce nausea with ginger tea.
Seasonal allergies can be soothed with vitamin C and quercetin (a form of flavonol found in fruits and veggies). Miller says a cup of freshly squeezed OJ has both.
When You're Feeling Down
When you mood is down, don't turn right to ice cream. Miller says drinking a beverage high in tryptophan (a type of amino acid) will help increase your "feel good" hormone serotonin. A quick fix includes a juice smoothie with frozen bananas, pineapples and kiwi.
Also known as the "Champagne of Life," kombucha tea is full of probiotics, improve digestion and helps keep your bathroom visits regular, Miller says.
You won't need any chocolate or strawberries for this one. Miller says maca tea with honey (a natural aphrodisiac) can do the trick. Maca can increase our sex drives and honey is known to increase testosterone.
Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
To help prevent a UTI, Miller recommends drinking pure cranberry juice. One study found that <a href="http://women.webmd.com/news/20100823/cranberry-juice-fights-urinary-tract-infection-quickly">cranberry juice works against infections and bacteria within 8 hours of consumption</a>, according to WebMD.com.
Energy For The Middle Of The Day
Feel like a cheerleader without the poms poms and mini skirt. For an instant energy boost, try wheat grass juice.
Upset stomach? Try a soothing drink like apple cider vinegar, Miller says. Mixing it with water is a good idea — as is checking with your doctor to make sure this remedy is right for you.