A lot of people who are reducing sugar in their diet also think they need to drink less alcohol, because there is sugar in alcoholic drinks.

But if you look up the nutritional information panel on some bottles of wine, you might see that sugars are close to.

Why is that?

Is there actually sugar in alcoholic drinks?

And where does alcohol fit into the nutritional equation, in relation to carbs and calories?

And what about the health effects – is it just about sugar?

These are the questions I’m going to answer in this blog.

Is There Sugar in Alcoholic Drinks?

Short answer – in some of them.

  • Mixer drinks that contain cola, lemonade, tonic or other soft drinks contain sugar.
  • Some sweet wines contain sugar, too.
  • Any spirits mixed with fruit juice contain fructose.

Sugar in Alcoholic Drinks | Downsize Me

While too much sucrose (table sugar) is a problem, a greater problem is fructose because it is addictive, is treated differently by your liver and promotes fat storage. Plus, it makes you eat more!

Carbs, Sugar and Calories in Alcohol

You might be breathing a sigh of relief. No sugar in wine – great!  BUT, it’s worth looking at the other features of alcoholic drinks.

Sugar in Alcoholic Drinks | Downsize Me* * *source: http://www.calorieking.com.au

Sugar content varies between different drinks, including between different brands of the same type of drink.

Looking at the recommended daily intake for carbs, sugar and calories in the table above, you can see that for 275mL of alcoholic drinks:

The lowest sugar alcohols are:

  • beer
  • dry white and red wines.
  • clear spirits (on ice or with plain soda), such as vodka

Does Vodka Make You Gain Weight?

Sugar in Alcoholic Drinks | Downsize Me

You might look at this list and think – yippee! There’s no sugar in vodka or wine!

Yes, that’s something to celebrate.

But remember, that the vodka, wine, beer or any alcohol you drink contains calories with absolutely no nutritional value.

And just 275mL of alcohol (any type) can contain up to 10% of your daily calorie intake.

Also, even though some alcoholic drinks are low in sugar, the alcohol itself has a similar molecular structure to sugar, and can become addictive, just like sugar can.

In other words, after you’ve drunk your 180-calorie drink, you might feel like another….and another.

 In terms of weight and health, the coaches who run the Downsize Me program have found that alcohol is linked with the following things in our 650+ clients:

  • a bigger pot belly (compared with non-drinkers)
  • over-eating due to lowered inhibitions
  • greater total calorie load for the day
  • excess body fat
  • reduced liver function and metabolism.

Part of the reason for excess weight is obviously due to calorie load. But we also speculate that, because some alcohol metabolism occurs in your pancreas and can cause damage there, that alcohol can mess with insulin production (in the pancreas) and regulation, which makes it harder to lose weight.

Other effects of alcohol

While a tipple might be tasty, it’s actually a metabolic poison. In my 16-year career as a biologist, we used pure alcohol to euthanase and preserve invertebrates.

In her book Good Health in the 21stCentury, Dr Carole Hungerford (GP) explains that alcohol is broken down by an enzyme (called aldehyde dehydrogenase), to form acetaldehyde which is then converted into acetic acid by liver and muscle tissue.

Studies show that about 40% of Japanese, Chinese and Indigenous Americans, and 10% of the remaining population, actually lack the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme, so they are not so good at detoxifying in the liver, and tend to accumulate aldehyde.

The signs and symptoms of acetaldehyde accumulation include:

  • a red face
  • getting drunk quickly
  • reduced coordination
  • memory impairment, and
  • sleepiness.

It sounds all jolly and merry, but if you have these symptoms, it means that your body doesn’t deal with alcohol very well.

For the normal person, alcohol is a metabolic challenge.

For the person whose genes are working against them, it means poor detoxification – a pre-condition for cancers and other diseases.

If you’re overweight, then your metabolism is further compromised.

In summary, alcohol affects your metabolic pathways and hinders your ability to lose weight.

Sugar in alcoholic drinks is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to weight loss – even sugar-free alcohol can be a problem for some people.

What signs and symptoms of low alcohol tolerance do you have? How have you adjusted your habits?


Melanie White

Melanie White

Chief Inspiration Coach

I'm a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.