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Alcohol makes up 25pc of shopping bills as we stick to an 'unsustainable' diet

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The high cost of alcohol is part of the reason. Photo posed

The high cost of alcohol is part of the reason. Photo posed

The high cost of alcohol is part of the reason. Photo posed

Alcohol accounts for less than 7pc of our calorie intake but contributes to 25pc of our daily food costs, according to new research.

The high cost of alcohol in Ireland is why it accounts for such a high chunk of our food bills, according to Mike Williams, assistant professor in botany at Trinity's School of Natural Sciences.

He is the lead author of two newly published reports looking at our diet here, as well as the European landscape.

Beer

Speaking to the Herald, he said that the average in other European countries is 20pc.

He said that previous research has shown that Ireland is in joint sixth place when it comes to the amount of beer or lager we drink, compared to other European countries.

Ireland, Croatia and Latvia all consume 79 litres of beer or lager per capita per year.

In one of the papers, the research team performed an assessment of the Irish diet by comparing it with the EAT-Lancet Commission 'planetary healthy' reference diet, which essentially states that global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, while we reduce consumption of red meat and sugar if we are to feed 10 billion people by 2050.

One of the key findings was that the Irish diet is rich in "unsustainable" food items, "as well as seriously limiting our potential to limit the effects of global warming and nitrogen pollution".

Professor Williams said that global diets are more "Westernised", less healthy and more harmful to the environment.

"Over-consumption of nutritionally poor foods has led to a global crisis in obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and colon cancer, while the global food industry has failed the environment in terms of its impact on global warming and nitrogen pollution," he said.

"Effective change can only be achieved through education."

Meanwhile, the researchers discovered broadly similar patterns when it came to diets outside of Ireland.

It is almost the case that no Mediterranean country now has a 'Mediterranean diet' - traditionally comprising lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some seafood, Professor Williams said.

The researchers said the European diet is "particularly unsustainable given the dependency on red meat, cereals, dairy and animal fats".

Meanwhile, alcohol consumption is almost five times the calorie intake of legumes.