Alcohol Adds 100 Calories a Day to Our Diet

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 14, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 15, 2012 -- Alcoholic drinks contribute about 100 calories a day to the average American's diet.

But wine, liquor, and especially beer may add much more to the daily calorie count for younger adults and men.

A new study shows that on any given day, people who drink alcohol get about 16% of their total calories from alcoholic drinks.

Alcohol's calories come mainly from sugar. Federal dietary guidelines recommend no more than 5% to 15% of total calories come from solid fats or added sugars at any calorie intake level. Because alcohol is considered a source of added sugar, the results show the average American's 16% of daily calories from alcohol puts them over the recommended 15% limit.

The calories in one serving of alcohol (not including mixers) range from about 100 to 150 calories. For example:

  • One 12-ounce beer is about 150 calories.
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine is about 120 calories.
  • 1.5 ounces or a shot of liquor contains about 100 calories.

Alcohol Contributes Calories

The report is based on survey data from adults over age 20 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2010.

Researchers looked at the number of calories drunk by adults in the last 24 hours from beer, wine, liquor, or mixed drinks.

Among the findings:

  • Men get about 150 calories per day from alcohol compared with about 50 calories for women.
  • Young men aged 20 to 29 got the most calories from alcohol, about 174 per day, compared with other groups.
  • Women over age 60 took in the fewest alcohol calories at an average of 33 calories per day.
  • Men drank more beer than other types of alcohol. Beer accounted for 103 of the 150 alcohol calories drunk per day by men.
  • Among women, beer, wine and liquor contributed nearly equally to the daily alcohol calories count.

Researchers found the average calorie count from alcoholic drinks did not differ by race or ethnicity. But women with higher incomes drank more than those with lower incomes.

Federal dietary guidelines recommend that if you drink, it should be done in moderation -- one drink per day for women and two for men.

Researchers say the results show that across the total population, most men and women fall within these guidelines. But 19% of men and 12% of women exceed them.

Show Sources


Nielsen, S. "Calories Consumed from Alcoholic Beverages by U.S. Adults, 2007-2010," National Center for Health Statistics Brief, November 2012.

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