We didn’t know that until 1902, when the “father” of American nutrition science, Wilbur Atwater, announced after meticulous experiments that alcohol has 7 calories per gram. That’s nearly twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein, which have 4. Fat has the most, with 9 calories per gram.
Atwater’s news was controversial, to say the least.
That was before we knew about vitamins (Atwater died before their discovery). In those days, the value of a food was judged by how many calories it provided. Atwater himself was a strong proponent of eating the cheapest calories for physical and financial health.
So here was the most famous nutritionist of the day and a non-drinker himself seeming to support the idea that alcohol was a valuable food at a time when public drinking was a big social problem. But that’s what his data showed. Atwater stuck to his guns, despite fierce opposition from temperance groups and his own Methodist Church, which claimed he must be wrong. He wasn’t.
Here are the calories in a variety of beers, ciders, and wines. The differences are largely due to the varying levels of alcohol and carbohydrates in the drinks.
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