Breweries and alcoholic drinks manufacturers should introduce calorie count signs on all bottles and cans in a bid to beat the obesity crisis, councils say.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils - who are responsible for public health - says while the long-term health effects of drinking, such as liver and heart damage and increased risk of cancer are relatively well known, the huge number of hidden calories contained in alcohol is not.
Labelling the number of calories in an alcoholic drink will ensure people are as informed as possible to enable choice.
Calories from alcohol are 'empty calories', with no nutritional value. By drinking alcohol, the amount of fat the body burns for energy is reduced. Research shows that a pint of cider at 4.5 per cent has 216 calories and is the equivalent to three quarters of a burger; whilst a single spirit at 40 per cent is 61 calories or an eighth of a burger - although the relatively higher alcohol content means there could be greater health risks.
Over 24 hours, drinking five pints of beer at 4 per cent strength is the equivalent to eating more than three burgers which would take an hour-and-a-half to run off. A bottle of wine - about four small 175 ml glasses - has the same calorie count as more than two burgers and would take over an hour to run off.
Earlier this year, MEPs urged the European Commission to label the calorie content of alcohol, with the move also receiving widespread support from UK health groups.
Research shows two thirds of the public actively support calorie labels and that 80 per cent of the public didn't know or incorrectly estimated the calorie content of a large glass of wine (up to 228). Ninety per cent didn't know the number of calories in a pint of lager (about 180).
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA Community Wellbeing spokesperson, said:
"Breweries and drinks manufacturers should show leadership in tackling the obesity crisis, by voluntarily providing clear signs on bottles and cans of alcohol.
"Most people are aware that excessive alcohol can lead to serious health problems like liver and heart damage, and an increased risk of cancer. However, the amount of calories from an average night's drinking isn't so well-known. People should be able to make informed choices.
"The onus is on the big breweries to do more to provide clear and prominent labelling. Providing people with the right information allows them to make choices about what they eat and drink.
"Prevention is the only way we are going to tackle the obesity crisis, which is costing the NHS more than £5 billion every year. It's all about giving people the right information about the calories they are consuming. This saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services, and improves the public's health."
The NHS is currently spending more than £1.5 million an hour on treating diabetes with the UK having higher levels of obesity and overweight people than anywhere in Western Europe, except for Iceland and Malta.