[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 13:24 GMT
Is beer less fattening than wine?
Is it the beer or the lifestyle that's fattening?
Brewers are hoping to appeal to women drinkers by offering beer in third-of-a-pint glasses. But first they tackle the belief that beer is more fattening than wine. Is it true?

Stroll through the doors of a traditional British hostelry and the scene that presents itself would no doubt jar with the slogan for a new campaign by pub operators: Beautiful Beer.

The sight of burly, whiskery men propping up the bar with a pint in one hand and a gravity-affirming paunch may conjure many descriptions, but "beautiful" is probably not one of them.

Yet, with its campaign, the British Beer and Pub Association believes it can turn back the clock on British drinking trends, which, of late, have seen ales and lagers lose out to the more fashionable wine.

To do so, it needs to win over women drinkers - only 14% of whom drink beer in pubs, compared to 36% who drink wine.

Believing that female drinkers are put off by pints and halves the BBPA wants to see beer served in more elegant, long-stemmed, third-of-a-pint glasses.

But it also wants to set the record straight on beer's calorific qualities. Startling as it may seem, beer is less, not more, fattening than wine.

Crisps and peanuts

According to the BBPA, a glass of beer with a typical 4.6% alcoholic volume, has fewer calories not only than a similar measure of wine, but also milk or fruit juice.

Pint and cigarette
Beer (4.6% alc): 41 calories
Wine (12% alc): 77 calories
Spirits: 250 calories
Milk: 64 calories
Orange juice: 42 calories
Apple juice: 47 calories
Source: BBPA
Spirits, meanwhile, contain more than six times the calories of beer, and when mixed with a soft drink, the calorie-count soars even higher.

But who ever heard of a wine belly or a vodka gut?

Research into drinking habits has found that beer's fattening reputation has more to do with the lifestyle of those who drink it, and the greasy bar snacks that often accompany a night down the local.

"There's no such thing as the beer belly," says George Philliskirk, of the Beer Academy. "But it is an appetite stimulant and it's the fish and chips or curry that round off a night with a few pints that puts the weight on."

A study of 2,300 drinkers in the Czech Republic, where beer is the tipple of choice, found they put on almost no more weight around the abdomen than non-drinkers.

Martin Bobak, an epidemiologist at University College London, who carried out the research, suggests it is a lifestyle argument.

In the West, the better educated someone is, the less obese they are likely to be. Lower educated people tend to drink more beer while the higher educated tend to drink more wine, said Mr Bobak.

Bigger glasses

Sceptics will argue that although beer has fewer calories than wine, it comes in pints while wine is served in smaller measures.

However, Mr Phillistick says the gap is narrowing - the typical wine serving has crept up from 125ml to 175ml. Many bars now serve a large 250ml glass as a matter of course, which is equivalent to a third of a bottle.

The BBPA says the trend toward slightly stronger beers in recent years means drinkers can sip from a full-flavour Continental brew in much the same way as they do from a glass of Chardonnay; even enjoy it at mealtimes.

In fact, concerns about alcohol being fattening could be completely off-target anyway. Martin Bobak says there isn't even concrete evidence that the human body can turn alcohol into fat.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific