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Media reports regarding beer's sugar content


On 02/04/14 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)


Media reports regarding beer's sugar content


There has been considerable focus on the sugar content of food and drink in the national media of late, and in particular some misleading reports have been published, claiming to highlight the ‘hidden’ sugars within alcoholic beverages, including beer. Much of this focus appears to be on the apparent addition of sugar to beer by brewers and, in the case of one report challenged by the BBPA in February, the ridiculous suggestion that a pint of ale contains nine teaspoons or 45g of sugar!


Spurious claims aside, the reality is very different and a pint of beer will typically contain less than a teaspoon of sugar. Some of the considerable media confusion occurred in differentiating carbohydrates from sugar. The total carbohydrate content of beer will almost certainly be higher than the sugar content. The finished beer contains many sources of carbohydrates beyond sugars, such as soluble fibre, many of which have been individually associated with positive health benefits. In addition, the majority of this carbohydrate is derived from the cereals which are one of the main ingredients of beer


Most beer will have very little, if any, sugar added during the brewing process, and any sugars that are added will be almost entirely converted into alcohol. The average sugar content for ale with a characteristic alcohol strength of 4%-5% ABV is around 2.5g, or half a teaspoon, per 500ml. Studies reported in the media that centre on sugar do so largely as a proxy for calories. In this way it is worth remembering that beer is relatively low in calories. A typical half a pint of bitter contains just 90 calories - that's fewer than in the same amount of orange juice, or milk.


Confusion and misinformation reported in the media do very little to aid consumer understanding of complex issues associated with nutrition and diet. They can also lead to misconceptions and in the case of beer, few know that, as well as being relatively low in calories, it also typically contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. There is no doubt that, when enjoyed in moderation by those without underlying health conditions, beer can certainly be part of a healthy lifestyle."



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