Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thinking critically about nutritional research

My bestest friend just left me this link on Facebook: Forget Exercise, Beer Best for Fighting Fat

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is spindoctoring the negative impression beer has with many health and weight loss proponents.  Here are some highlights of what they have to say:

“…a glass of beer every day can cut as many calories as a half-hour run.”

“…about 34% of men and 29% of women erroneously believe that beer has a higher calorie count than other drinks like wine and liquor.”

“Because beer is the drink…with the lowest average alcohol content, it is also lowest in calories…so for someone looking to lose weight, swapping their glass of wine for a beer every day would…cut out more calories than are burned off during a typical 30-minute jog.”

I clicked the link with gusto, hoping to be enlightened by some new-found research to support my love of the hoppy stuff, but I just found poorly-spun rhetoric and flawed logic.  Drinking beer won’t burn calories.  That’s insane.  I think what they’re saying with the first bullet point is, if you’re already drinking a 500-calorie margarita made from corn syrup every night, drinking a beer instead will save you as many calories as a run would burn.  If you’re trying to lose weight though, let’s face it – neither option is a good one.

Those percentages they’re spewing at us, along with the word “erroneously,” are meant to throw us off.  1 ounce of vodka has about 64 calories.  1 ounce of red wine has 21.  1 ounce of regular beer has about 12 calories.  So they’re right – ounce for ounce, beer has fewer calories.  Too bad they never come out and say that.

For many of us, one or two shots of vodka will do it, but how many people do you know who sit around shooting one or two ounces of beer before calling it a night?  Say you go out to a bar with your friends and have two drinks.  You’re trying to watch your waistline – what do you pick?  Two shots of vodka would equal about 130 calories, two glasses of wine are about 170, but 2 pints of regular beer come to an average of 370 calories.  Even two pints of light beer is about 270.  Keeping the alcohol content the same (1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories, no matter the source), beer has more extra “stuff” and therefore more calories per traditional serving (16oz of beer vs. 1oz of liquor vs. 4oz of wine).

They’re technically telling us the truth but omitting the whole story.  For equal volumes of each liquid, beer has the fewest calories, but a true beer-lover isn’t expected to sip out of a shot glass, and you’ve still got to burn calories through old-school exercise.

Have you come across any crazy health claims that you’ve debunked with the power of critical thinking?