Reduced-Alcohol Beers & Wines Do Not Lower Overall Alcohol Intake

A new study from the UK casts doubt on the claim that greater access to lower-alcohol beers and wines will ultimately lead to less alcohol intake overall. Such products, say the authors of a study published at the website for BMC Public Health, simply encourage people to consume alcohol at occasions previously considered inappropriate–and to comfort themselves with the notion that they are somehow doing something healthy for themselves.

And compared with regular beers and wines, low-alcohol drinks are more often peddled with health promises.

Lower strength wines and beers are more likely to be hawked as soft drink alternatives than as a way to reduce overall alcohol consumption, say UK scientists.

Reduced alcohol beverages are becoming more common in the UK and those beverages are usually marketed with at least one of four claims attached:

  • These products are more appropriate for workday lunches, neighborhood barbeques and family sporting events than full-alcohol drinks.
  • They can be healthier than regular drinks and can even benefit a fit lifestyle.
  • They have less alcohol than full-alcohol beverages.
  • They taste better than traditional beers and wines.

The problem, say the researchers behind this new study, is that these lower-alcohol beverages are not being marketed in a way that encourages people to consume less alcohol overall. Such products appear to be competing with colas, soft drinks and other sugary drinks but not with other alcoholic beverages. In fact, they are often seen as a way to deepen a brand’s existing footprint in consumers’ lives.

And in a nation that once pledged to take a billion units of alcohol out of the retail market, the messages these new products are sending are not helpful.

This study’s authors do not make any official recommendations on what, if anything, health experts can or should do about lower-alcohol beverages. The research was funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme.


Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash





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