Of the four energy nutrients, alcohol is the second most fattening. Whereas a gram of carbohydrate or protein provides four calories, a gram of alcohol provides seven¾not far from the nine calories provided by a gram of fat.
As most people know, heavy use of alcohol can trigger health problems. These include liver diseases, hypertension, stroke, heart degeneration, pancreatitis, and hyperlipidemia (excess fat in the blood), as well as birth defects. For a list of nutrients in which alcoholics are often deficient, see Alcoholism.
"Moderate" Drinking¾Two Definitions
Most people can avoid these maladies, however, by drinking in moderation. As a personal gauge, you might watch the alcohol figure in your Key Ratio. If you're an average, fairly sedentary person eating just enough to maintain your weight, you can generally consider yourself a moderate drinker if 15 percent or fewer of your calories come from alcohol.
This rule won't be reliable, however, if you're on a higher-calorie diet because of exercise. A better gauge is the one DietPower has derived from studies by the Food and Nutrition Board: "Moderate" drinking means averaging no more than 0.007 fluid ounces of alcohol per pound of body weight per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, that's roughly the amount in two drinks¾a drink being defined as 12 ounces of beer, six ounces of wine, or one 1½-ounce shot of liquor. (If you weigh only 100 pounds, the limit would be about one and one-half drinks; if you weigh 200 pounds, about three drinks.)
Is "a drink a day" good for you?
In recent years, popular books and magazines have trumpeted the results of studies showing that having a drink a day promotes longevity. Light drinking seems to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Although it's not definitively proven, most experts agree it is probably true. Nevertheless, they don't urge teetotalers to take up drinking "for medicinal purposes," because ten percent of drinkers eventually have problems controlling their consumption.
Your Daily Allowance
For these reasons, if you indicate on your Personal Information Form that you're not a drinker, DietPower sets your Personal Daily Allowance (PDA) of alcohol at zero. If you register as a drinker, however, the program sets your PDA at the "moderate" ceiling defined above. For most people, it will mean fewer than 10 percent of their calories come from alcohol.
Revising Your Allowance
Although your PDA of alcohol is calculated from your body weight, it is not automatically updated as you gain or lose pounds¾it stays where it was on the day you enroll in DietPower. If your weight has changed a lot, however, you can revise the PDA yourself. Here's how:
1. Multiply your new weight (in pounds) by 0.007. The result is your new PDA of alcohol (in fluid ounces), according to DietPower's definition of "moderate" drinking.
2. From your Home Screen, open the Personal Daily Allowance Editor by clicking the word Options and choosing "Edit PDAs." The Energy Nutrients page will be on top.
3. Find the field labeled "Alcohol," in the upper-right corner.
4. Type your new PDA over the old.
5. Click OK or press the Enter key. DietPower will record the new PDA and take you back to the Home Screen.
The Food and Nutrition Board has not determined a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for alcohol¾but see "'Moderate' Drinking¾Two Definitions," above.
Color Coding of This Nutrient
In your personal Nutrient History, the alcohol bar is:
· blue for "good" if you've logged 100 percent or less of your PDA
· red for "bad" if you've logged more than 100 percent of your PDA
· missing if you've logged no alcohol.
In a food or recipe's nutrient profile, the alcohol bar is:
· green¾meaning the item is "good" where this nutrient is concerned¾if the item contains any alcohol. (The word "good" is being used loosely here; it means only that the food is a source of alcohol.)
· magenta¾meaning the item is "bad" where this nutrient is concerned¾if the item contains no alcohol
· missing if the amount of alcohol is either zero or unknown.
On pie charts, the alcohol wedge is always yellow:
How Complete Are DietPower's Alcohol Readings?
Very. Of the 11,000 foods in DietPower's dictionary, none list their alcohol content as "unknown." (There will be unknowns if you've added foods to the dictionary with missing alcohol figures. But these won't be marked as unknowns. Because alcohol is one of the four energy nutrients, DietPower needs a figure in the Alcohol column in order to calculate a food's calorie content. If you leave a blank or a question mark there, the program automatically changes it to a zero.)
If you enrolled in DietPower as a nondrinker¼
¼by not checking the "I drink alcoholic beverages" box in the Personal Information Form, your Nutrient History will still reflect any alcohol that you happen to consume.
Alcohol on Food Labels
Wines always report their alcohol content, usually as a percentage by volume. The percentage is typically 10 to 13, but can range a few points higher or lower.
Beers don't report alcohol content, but for them it is typically three to four percent by volume. (In DietPower's Food Dictionary, regular beer is 3.6 percent alcohol by volume; light beer 3.2 percent by volume. This is an average based on U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis of major brands.)
Liquors usually measure alcohol in "proof" rather than percentage. To convert proof to percentage, just divide the proof number by two. Eighty-six-proof whiskey, for example, is 43-percent alcohol by volume. Most liquors fall into the 80-to-100-proof range.
Since there is no official Daily Value for alcohol, labels never report alcohol content as a percentage of a requirement or a ceiling. (The DietPower Daily Value is one-half fluid ounce, roughly the amount in one drink.)
For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.