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There's No Brewsky in the Food Pyramid

This just in: Drinkers more likely to pair potato chips than apple slices with beer.

Not-all-that-groundbreaking new research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have drinkers rethinking their diets.

A study of more than 15,000 adults in the United States, published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that people who drink more also eat worse. More specifically, the more men and women drink, the less likely they are to eat fruit, and they consume more calories from alcohol and unhealthy foods. Among men, increased alcoholic beverage consumption also meant a decreased intake of whole grains and milk.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, researchers examined alcohol consumption information and Healthy Eating Index-2005 scores. The Healthy Eating Index-2005 scores measure how closely diets adhere to the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which define moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men. These guidelines advise people to consume nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limit consumption of alcohol, unhealthy fats and added sugars.

The scientists found that as consumption of alcoholic beverages increased, Healthy Eating Index scores decreased, which indicates that individuals who are drinking more are making worse food choices.

First author Journal of the American Dietetic Association, who works for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, cautions that the study did not determine the cause of the association. In other words, the decreased diet quality could be due to the perfection of a potato-chip-IPA pairing or the hangover-healing properties of french fries.

Previous research by Breslow and her colleagues found that the people who drink the most have the lowest-quality diets. Because both heavy drinking and poor diet quality have been associated with cardiovascular disease, cancers and other health problems, the findings raise concerns that alcohol consumption is a double-whammy for health.

"Our findings underscore the importance of moderation for individuals who choose to consume alcoholic beverages, and a greater awareness of healthy food choices among such individuals," Breslow observed.

Perhaps well-intentioned fake-ID providers should give their customers copies of the dietary guidelines.

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