Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

1. What is a carbohydrate?
2. Are there carbohydrates in beer?
3. Does this mean the carb count for beer is incorrect in the diet books?
4. Why is a food’s glycemic index important?
5. What’s a good carb vs. a bad carb?
6. But is beer still appropriate on strict low-carb diets?
7. Does this mean other foods are measured wrong in the books?


1. What is a carbohydrate?

A carbohydrate is a fundamental nutritional building block that provides energy to the body, particularly the brain.(35)

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2. Are there carbohydrates in beer?


Yes, there are low levels of carbohydrates in beer, but only trace amounts of simple sugars, including maltose, in beer.(8, 9, 10, 11)

Most light beers are low in carbohydrates. Bud Light, for example, contains 6.6 grams of carbs per serving.

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3. Does this mean the carb count for beer is incorrect in the diet books?

No. Beer does contain carbohydrates, but at relatively low levels.

The problem is that some diet books say beer has a high glycemic index, but this is based on incorrect information that beer is high in maltose or simple sugars. (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)

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4. Why is a food’s glycemic index important?

Many recent, popular carbohydrate diet books use glycemic index as a simple guide to making food choices.(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7,) Glycemic index is intended to measure how fast and high a specific food increases blood sugar.

Although there are two similar methods for measuring glycemic index, there is no consensus among doctors or nutritionists that glycemic index is a reliable way to choose foods for weight loss or other diets.(12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22)

Glycemic index does not account for serving size. Considering a food’s purported glycemic index alone can distort the real glycemic response of a low﷓carbohydrate food, such as beer.

Measuring the glycemic index of a food generally requires the food be consumed in about a 15-minute time period and in quantities that deliver 50 grams of carbohydrates. Then, the blood sugar is measured over time and the results are compared to the blood sugar response of a standard food, such as glucose or white bread.(13, 26, 27)

The problem with testing beer this way is that all beers are relatively low in carbs.(23, 24) It would require a person to drink, for example, 7.5 light beers within 15 minutes to consume the 50 grams necessary to measure the resulting blood sugar. That is not responsible consumption of beer by adults.

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5. What’s a good carb vs. a bad carb?

There is no universally agreed upon definition for “good” or “bad” carbohydrates in the academic world.

Many carb diet books characterize carbs by glycemic index – low is good, high is bad.

Some recommend only “complex carbs” and unprocessed, high-fiber foods and discourage eating foods high in simple sugars, or those that are highly processed.(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7,)

Many of these books mischaracterize beer in terms of its glycemic index or simple-sugar content, suggesting both are high. However, in fact, beer contains little or no simple sugars or maltose, and most light beers are low in carbohydrates.

Not all of these books label beer as “bad.” Nonetheless, readers draw that conclusion because they have inaccurately been told beer has a high glycemic index, or high sugar content, or both. We know that conclusion is based on incorrect information, since beer contains no more than trace amounts of maltose or other simple sugars.(8, 9, 10, 11)

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6. But is beer still appropriate on strict low-carb diets?

Many adults who also happen to be on weight-loss diets of all kinds enjoy beer, and especially light beer, responsibly.

Beer has no fat.(10) Most light beers also are naturally low in carbs and low in calories. Even regular beers are so low in carbs that the glycemic index cannot be practically measured, according to University of Sydney researchers.(23, 24)

No matter what kind of diet – low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie – is chosen, most doctors agree that the keys to weight loss are moderate food and beverage intake and regular exercise. Beer can be part of that kind of lifestyle for many adults.

We are not saying that drinking beer will cause you to lose weight. Rather, we are providing accurate information so adults can determine what products can fit within their food and beverage choices.

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7. Does this mean other foods are measured wrong in the books?

We know the books that assign a high glycemic index to beer based on high maltose and simple sugar content are wrong.

It is for other industries to comment on how their products are described in the books.

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