Drink Tank

Summer Series: Healthy alcohol? Don’t fall for the marketing spin

Every January the Drink Tank team select our ‘best of’ posts from the past year for our Summer Series.

Today, while many are largely still in the mindset clean slates, healthy choices, and new beginnings in the name of new year’s resolutions, we make the case for kicking the booze to kick-start your health.

Is there such a thing as healthy alcohol?

The alcohol industry would like us to believe so, and no doubt so would many drinkers. Regardless of what we would like to believe, alcohol products are generally unhealthy, be it for your waistline or your risk of serious disease or injury.

Alcohol industry analysts have observed an increased interest in health and wellness among consumers in Australia, particularly young people. So, how can alcohol companies leverage off this perceived health trend, in light of declining alcohol use in Australia?

Our research, published in the journal Public Health Research and Practice, examines how the alcohol industry has responded to a perceived increase in health consciousness among consumers, considers policy implications and provides recommendations to address supposedly healthier alcohol products.

It shows how alcohol companies are developing and marketing their products to appear as healthier to tap into the perceived consumer trend toward living healthier lifestyles.

Don’t be fooled by the marketing. The idea that low-carb beer is good for you is nothing more than a myth, designed to make the “weight conscious” drink more beer.

And as far as marketing ploys go, it’s working. Our latest research shows that more than one in three men (35 per cent) and one in five women (22 per cent) incorrectly think low-carb beer is healthy.

But marketing certain beers as ‘low carb’ is doing nothing more than giving these beers a false healthy halo.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality is low-carb beers have only slightly fewer kilojoules than regular beer. They’re not healthy, and drinking them certainly won’t prevent weight gain.

We’ve crunched the numbers with Cancer Council Victoria and found some so-called “low-carb” beers actually contain as many carbs as beers that didn’t carry this message.

Most beers are actually already relatively low in carbohydrates. It’s the alcohol – not carbs – making beer so high in kilojoules.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world, including in the United States.

About 70 percent of adults in the United States report past-year alcohol consumption, with over 37 million drinkers reporting binge drinking (defined for women as four or more drinks per occasion, and five or more drinks per occasion for men) at least once a week. The prevalence of past-year drinking has increased in the past two decades, from 65.4 percent in 2001 to 2002 to 72.7 percent in 2012 to 2013.

Partially because it is such a commonly used substance, heavily marketed and glamorized in pop culture, Americans’ comfort with and acceptance of alcohol is high.

Should it be?


Drink Tank aims to generate meaningful commentary and debate about alcohol policy, and to provide a platform for all members of the Australian community to share their views and concerns.

Our goal is for the Drink Tank community to engage in robust discussion about alcohol, highlighting a broad spectrum of views and voices, and ultimately to raise the profile of alcohol as an issue of national importance.

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