Alcohol – the forgotten macronutrient? Recent data from the Australian Health Survey

Though we were excited about the release of the nutritional data from the Australian Health Survey, we didn’t blink at the news that teenagers and young adults consume more soft drinks, burgers and chips than any other age group. We were indeed impressed that three quarters (75%) of us ate vegetable products and dishes until we realised that only 6.8% of us met the recommended usual intake (tsk tsk, are we not listening to Mum…or our ever knowledgeable dietitians?).

We did however nearly drop our morning cup of coffee (along with 46% of you) when we realised that almost one-third (32%) of us aged 19 and over enjoy a drink or two; and in this population, the average contribution of alcohol to energy was 16% (including energy from the carbohydrate content in addition to the ethanol content). Thankfully, the majority (87%) of us also reported drinking water.

We’re drinking how much?

Let’s take a closer look at these stats. The table below outlines the mean contribution to energy intake for males and females across different age groups. The group with the highest mean contribution to energy intake from alcohol across both genders were adults aged 51- to 70-years.

Mean contribution (%) to energy intake


Other interesting facts

  • Overall, the most commonly consumed alcoholic drinks were: wines (13%), beers (11%) and spirits (excluding pre-mixed; 2.1%)
  • Beer was the alcohol of choice for Aussie men
  • Ladies seem to have a preference for wine

How much is recommended?

The 2009 National Health and Medical Research recommend that alcohol should form less than 5% of energy intakes. With 29 kilojoules (7 calories) per gram, alcohol is second only to fat (37 kilojoules [9 calories] per gram) in terms of energy density but offers no nutrition value. It’s easy to forget that you can drink as many kilojoules as you can eat and as our inhibitions go down, so too can alcohol associated munchies.

In light of the recent health survey results we may need to remind the population of the kilojoules alcohol contributes to the diet and encourage them to be mindful before taking their first sip.