Are sweet alcoholic drinks good for you?
As sweet alcoholic drinks have become increasingly popular in the form of coolers, scientists are wondering what the dangers are for younger drinkers. Find out the ingredients of commercial sweet alcoholic drinks, and some alternatives for beginner drinkers.
By Emma Zhao on Jun. 13, 2022
Fruity and sugary drinks have become increasingly popular in the world of alcohol, and many of these drinks increasingly appeal to younger novice drinkers. However, recent studies show that overly sweetened and poorly marketed coolers can inadvertently promote unhealthy alcohol consumption in younger drinkers.
The Study: alcohol-naïve rats love sweet alcoholic drinks
A study conducted by professors at the University of Guelph found that the more sweetened coolers that a young adult drinks, the more likely they are to develop an unhealthy relationship to alcohol in the future.
Published in the journal of Alcohol, this University of Guelph study is the first one of its kind to analyze how high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) affects the self-administration of alcohol.
By using rats, the study was able to analyze that alcohol-naïve consumers would have difficulty consuming drinks such as straight beer and wine, and would thus turn to sweeter alcohols such as coolers. The HFCS in alcohol would encourage rats to voluntarily drink more alcohol due to its palatability.
How does sweeter alcohols affect younger drinkers?
Samantha Ayoub, a postdoctoral fellow of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California. Ayoub, along with two other psychology professors, played a crucial role in conducting this particular study. Upon conducting the study, she wanted to warn younger adults and even teens, of the dangers of drinking alcoholic beverages saturated in HFCS — more specifically, popular coolers.
“Adolescents who are already prone to binge-drinking aren’t even aware [of these dangers],” Ayoub said. “It’s really allowing them to intake more alcohol than they may feel or want.”
Ayoub compares this to people who are exposed to more sour alcoholics (such as a pale ale or a sweeter wine) when they are alcohol-naïve.
“People genuinely enjoy drinking beer or wine casually because they learn to like the taste of alcohol,” she said. “You can’t get a rat to consume alcohol without putting a sweetener in it.”
This is the same case with people.
Rajetha Shiredaran, 24, has now graduated from the University of Toronto and has come to see the ways in which coolers have affected her college classmates.
“When I just started university, a lot of my college friends would drink beer and wine because it was the easiest thing to find.” Shiredaran said. “Now, coolers like Palm Bay have become so popular, it’s sort of the obvious choice for a young college student.”
Local wineries and breweries vs. globally marketed coolers
While it’s a difficult ask to cut off all coolers in one’s drinking habits, Ayoub wants consumers to be aware of sweetener contents in coolers.
Ayoub believes that on a larger scale, cooler companies need to be more transparent about the amount of HFCS in their drinks. “It’s not something people think of intuitively,” she said.
She notes that a lot of the marketing of coolers, with its colorful packaging promising colorful flavors, is often targeted at the younger generation, which can be a dangerous game to play.
What to do as a beginner drinker
In the meantime however, Ayoub recommends that people remain educated and aware of where their alcohol is coming from. Picking coolers lower in HFCS content could be a good start. Coolers such as White Claws are typically more sour than the popular Palm Bays and Twisted Teas, and are also a good option for beginners.
As these coolers are marketed towards younger adults, Ayoub encourages young adults to instead, go out and find local places to try alcohol.
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