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What is the healthiest alcohol choice?

This month is Ocsober, a National campaign aimed at young people to reduce harm from alcohol and drug use. It got me thinking about the number of times I've heard people say to me "I bought the light version so I can drink more". So with Ocsober firmly on our doorstep, and the free-flowing parties that are about to dawn upon us as the end of the year fast approaches, I want to talk about these beverages and safe drinking.

Firstly, let's clear up what light actually means. There are two ways that I will often come across these 'healthier options'. One will be as a low carb product, often beers, and is self explanatory. It is important to note in this case that a low carb beer contains the same amount of alcohol as a normal beer, just fewer carbs.

NEWSFLASH: It's the alcohol you need to worry about, not the carbs.

Light alcohol, refers to the alcohol content, and in this case, less of it.

Myth alert: Drinking light alcohol means you can drink more of it.

Wow, I can't tell you how many times I have heard this! No, it does not. Whilst yes, technically there is less alcohol in your beverage, and therefore technically one standard drink of a light beer, for example, is not equivalent to a full strength beer, the calorie content is still high. Yes, even light alcohol is high in calories. And drinking your calories is an incredibly easy way to have your waistline steadily expand.

Too many Australians consume alcohol at unsafe levels, and as adults, our habits affect our children, which is part of the reason Ocsober exists. Every month a significant number of Australians die from a drug or alcohol related activity. So why are we looking for loopholes to drink more?

The Australian national guidelines for alcohol consumption advise the following:

  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any one day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury
  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

I always add a third recommendation with my clients:

  • Have at least one, and preferably two, alcohol free days every week.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption below 10 standard drinks per week.

So yes, light alcohol is a better option than drinking the same number of full strength drinks. But an even healthier habit you could build would be to pace yourself. Have a glass of water in between each drink. Your health will thank you for it.

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