Young women, don’t drink because it’s high in calories: Is this the right message? – Stacey Broom

According to this article, A labour MP in New Zealand has argued that

if young women knew how many calories there were in alcoholic drinks they might think twice before getting drunk.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  In New Zealand we don’t have a particularly healthy attitude to drinking.  That is just a fact.  But does that make it okay to use any means to deter people from drinking?  I understand that telling young women that alcohol is high in calories might deter some from drinking, and deterring young women from drinking is a good thing, but should that deterrent come in the form of what ultimately amounts to a caution about weight gain?  Here are a few (very) half-baked thoughts:

Firstly, I wouldn’t have thought that young women were unaware of the fact that many alcoholic beverages are high in calories.  Many of the alcoholic beverages marketed toward young adults are alcopops, these are sweet, sweet means sugar, and too much sugar is not good for you regardless of the calories.

Secondly, this message misses the point.  Alcohol is not bad because it is high in calories it is bad because it can make you do things like thisthis, this, and this (some recent examples of how the problem often manifests in New Zealand).  Consuming too much alcohol is bad because of the behaviour that can accompany it.  Violent outbreaks like brawls, abuse, and even killing people are the reasons consuming too much alcohol is bad (not to mention it’s not good for your body, in terms of health).

Thirdly, maybe the MP is actually right.  The fact that alcohol can be bad for the reasons I’ve stated don’t work as a deterrent, if they did those incidences of stupidity and violence seen in the links above wouldn’t be happening (or certainly not as frequently).  Maybe we should be open to the idea that the means don’t really matter, what really matters is the end.  If telling young women a fact about alcohol consumption convinces them that drinking it in large quantities is not a good idea, then maybe it’s all for the better. We wouldn’t be lying to them. We’re just using a fact to exact a desirable result. Is that wrong?

Fourthly, if the MP is merely suggesting that including the amount of calories onto the label of alcoholic drinks is a good thing, then I agree. But, if she really did say anything about targeting women specifically with this method to reduce drinking in young women then that is flawed. Drinking is a problem in New Zealand generally, not specifically in young women. And health is a matter for everyone, again not just young women. Suggesting that young women should be targeted with a message regarding calories doesn’t seem right.

I’m not entirely convinced that labels on alcohol will affect consumption. I agree that more needs to be done with regard to the drinking culture in New Zealand, but I’m just not sure that telling young women (some of whom will already be preoccupied with how many calories they’re consuming) that that is the issue they ought to be focusing on is the best idea. Calories are not the problem, drinking in great quantities and the effects of doing so, is.

-Stacey Broom

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One thought on “Young women, don’t drink because it’s high in calories: Is this the right message? – Stacey Broom

  1. I think the MP Sue Moroney is trying to say that this aim for a healthy body weight is especially prevalent among younger women, and helping to fulfil this aim via nutritional information is a good thing. It will also have the added benefit of reducing binge drinking.

    I think the major problem with her argument is the targeting of ‘young women’, instead of aiming it at all New Zealanders (all of whom should have some responsibility over their body weight). So yes, she does indirectly reinforce that ‘normal’ desire for a ‘normal’ (in reality, abnormal) size 8 body.

    On another note, how has such a calorie-rich drink such as alcohol gone without nutritional information for so long? There is definitely space on the bottle- look at Coke, for example. Even takeaway outlets (McD’s, KFC) are obliged to supply this information nowadays.

    What makes alcoholic drinks different? Is there an assumption that people drink beverages containing alcohol merely for the alcohol content and not for why they drink other beverages- for the taste? One would have thought that this is incorrect- look at the variety of beers, wines and spirits; taste is very important. I suspect the financial and political might of the alcohol industry may be to blame…

    -Rob Cole

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