How You Are Unknowingly Exceeding Your Daily Sugar Intake

New research shows that just two glasses of wine are enough.
sugar wine glass intake

Yes, wine is good, but every wine type has its unique sugar content, from white to red to cooking wine and everything in between. But how much sugar does each wine have? Researchers have warned that adults can exceed their recommended daily sugar limit by drinking just two medium-sized glasses of the most caloric wines out there.

New research conducted by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) found that adults can reach and exceed the stipulated daily sugar intake by drinking two medium glasses of wine.

The study

wine study

The research conducted by AHA UK examined the calorie and sugar content of 30 different bottles of fruit, white, red, rose, and sparkling wine from popular UK brands. They found that just two medium-sized glasses of some wines could be enough to reach or exceed the recommended daily sugar limit for adults.

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According to the findings, wine can include anything from 0 to 59 grams of free sugars (2,08 ounce), more than a glazed doughnut. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK recommends adults consume a maximum of 30g (1.05 ounces) of “free sugars” daily. This includes sugar in all its forms (juices, smoothies, or sugar added to foods or drinks). A lot of foods have more sugar than it is commonly believed.

The alliance, representing more than 60 health organizations, found a wide variation of calories and sugar content across different wines analyzed. And with this information missing from most labels, consumers are “being kept in the dark” about what they are consuming. The Alcohol Health Alliance UK had said that product labeling on alcoholic drinks was “woefully inadequate.”

Lack of nutrition labels

wine bottles

The problem is most of the wine bottles lack nutritional information on labels. In the UK, like in many countries, this isn’t currently required by law, so campaigners are calling for a change to better inform about the number of calories and sugars they are consuming. It’s also something consumers want, according to recent surveys.

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“Since there is no legal requirement that sugar content be displayed on alcohol labels, drinkers may choose a lower-strength alcohol in the mistaken belief that it is a healthier alternative, but they may be unknowingly increasing their daily sugar intake.”

The study said that none of the 30 products examined displayed sugar content on their labels – information required for all non-alcoholic drinks. It added that only 20 percent of the labels evaluated had the calorie content displayed.

Obesity and Alcohol

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of AHA UK, says that the current exemption of alcohol from food and drink labeling rules [in the UK and US] is “absurd,” arguing that it portends danger to people. He continued, “Shoppers who buy milk or orange juice have sugar content and nutritional information right at their fingertips.”

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“However, when it comes to alcohol, this information is not required because it is a product that not only fuels obesity but also has widespread health consequences.”

Miles Beale, who heads up the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said that members of the organization want customers to have access to nutritional information for all alcoholic beverages but that the information should be made available online.

“We’ve been pushing for more information to be available online,” Mr. Beale added. “The alcohol industry can supply customers with a much wider range of information that is more relevant to them and would not fit on a label,” he continued. 

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The quantity of calories in different alcoholic drinks and drink servings varies significantly. The best way to supply the volume and variety of information consumers require to make rapid and informed decisions is to put it all online. 

“It would also be less expensive to deliver,” he adds. 

A survey published by the Alcohol Health Alliance in 2021, and conducted by Yougov, found that 61% wanted calorie information on wine labels and more than 50% of those surveyed wanted the amount of sugar listed. In 2020, the UK government consulted whether calories should be listed on alcoholic drinks – but there was no consultation on whether sugar content should be listed.

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Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, says, “Alcohol labeling is woefully inadequate in this country and allows the alcohol industry to decide what information it will and will not include on its products, despite alcohol claiming the lives of 70 people a day in the UK.”

The more you drink, the more calories you consume

It wasn’t just the sugar level that was excessive. The study discovered that just two medium-sized glasses of the most calorie-dense wines contained more calories than a small hamburger. The alliance stated as it published a new analysis on popular wines said most of the wines with less alcoholic content were found to contain more sugar. On the other hand, wines with high-calorie content tended to be stronger drinks. Calorie content was only displayed on a fifth of the bottles analyzed by the lab.

Alcohol accounts for about 10% of the daily calorie intake of adults who drink in the UK, with over three million adults consuming an extra day’s worth of calories each week. That’s two months of food each year, and it’s basically just empty calories. A study showed that it goes much further than just wine, with up to 59 grams of sugar found on every ready-to-drink cocktail on the market.

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Plans for the future

The government must make its planned consultation on alcohol labeling public as soon as possible – which we have been waiting for since 2020.

“As well as calorie labeling and nutritional information, we need prominent health warnings and the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk weekly drinking guidelines on labels. “According to studies, this could help reduce alcohol harm by raising awareness of the health hazards and encouraging behavior change.”

The alcohol industry has dragged its feet for long enough – unless labeling requirements are set out in the law, we will continue to be in the dark about what is in our drinks. “People want and need reliable information directly on bottles and cans, where it can usefully inform their decisions,” Alison Douglas from Alcohol Focus Scotland said in a statement.

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