Sugar and alcohol, double trouble

Have you ever wondered why you get sick after consuming alcohol? It’s because alcohol is a poison. It dehydrates the body, depletes the body of many vitamins and minerals and produces many nasty by-products. When the body’s going through all of that and working in overdrive to fix itself up, you can only imagine what throwing mountains of sugar on top of that will do.

But that’s what you’re up against when you buy those ready-to-drink, heavily marketed alcoholic products that combine hard liquor with soft drinks. The sweet taste of the sugar-laden soft drinks in these products can disguise the strength of spirits, such as whiskey, bourbon, tequila and vodka.

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, which means it provides our bodies with energy – plain and simple. When we are taking in more energy than are bodies are using it is stored as fat. Often, when we drink excessively, our bodies take in a lot more sugar than you think, which is not good for our health.

Each day, the average adult should only be taking in around 40 grams of added sugar (that doesn’t include natural sugars, such as those in fruit). So how much added sugar is in a 600ml bottle of cola, a popular mixer for spirits? A whopping 65 grams. That’s already 25 grams over the recommended intake and most people do not stop at one when mixing it with alcohol.

Sugar is highly addictive because it acts on the pleasure centre of the brain – so does alcohol. This makes for a dangerous duo. Excess consumption of sugar, in its refined state, and alcohol are bad for your teeth, liver and kidneys. Consuming sugar can also lead to health conditions that can put you at higher risk of developing cancer. Overconsumption of sugar is also a leading cause of obesity in adults and children – not to mention the old beer belly.

Alcoholic drinks that are mixed with soft drinks are easy to consume. Drinking straight bourbon, vodka, rum, tequila and the like isn’t exactly moreish but when coupled with the sweet taste of sugary drinks they begin to go down easily. This is dangerous for a number of reasons: you’re taking in way more sugar than is healthy plus your perception of how much alcohol you’re actually consuming becomes distorted – often ending in the consumption of dangerous amounts.

Plain old bourbon and cola doesn’t fill the void for many, especially today’s youth, and this is why we have seen the rise of drinks that you wouldn’t even know contained alcohol unless they were marketed as such. Once again, these sugary, tasty and often highly alcoholic drinks are dangerous because of the reasons stated earlier. Not only this, they also appeal to younger people who are not yet of legal drinking age.

All this being said, it’s pretty evident that high amounts of sugar coupled with alcohol don’t mix so when going out on the town do your body a favour and drink sugar-free mixers, don’t drink in excess and have a glass of water inbetween drinks as this dilutes the alcohol and sugar, making it easier for the body to process.

Fact File

An alcopop is a drink manufactured by combining soft drink or fruit juice with strong alcohol, such as wine, vodka or rum.

Since alcopops are sweet in flavour and often mask the strong taste of alcohol, this enhances their appeal to younger drinkers – including those under the legal drinking age of 18.

In a study completed by CHOICE in 2008, a quarter of teenagers could not differentiate between alcopops and non-alcoholic soft drinks. Another national survey found a significant majority of 16-year-olds (86%) and 17-year-olds (96%) had consumed alcohol at least once. About 40% of underage drinkers consume alcohol at dangerous levels, classified as binge drinking.

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