Koreans Drink More, Eat Less Protein

      September 04, 2018 12:14

      Koreans are drinking more alcohol but eating less protein, and there is still too much salt in their diet despite wall-to-wall health coverage in the media. 

      ◆ Drinking

      The Ministry of Health and Welfare surveyed 10,000 households and found that alcohol consumption increased 2.5 times from 46.5 g on average a day in 1998 to 115.6 g in 2016, perhaps because more people are happy to drink alone.

      Men still drink much more than women at 182.2 g of alcohol a day, but women are also drinking much harder than they used to, with the amount almost tripling from 16.6 g a day to 48.6 g over the same 18 years period.

      An even bigger problem is high-risk drinking, which is set at more than seven shot glasses of soju or five cans of beer in one sitting at least twice a week. Some 21.2 percent of men fall into this category.

      Among men in their 70s, high-risk drinkers dwindled from 12.8 to 6.3 percent over the period, but among those in their 20s it rose from 13 to 17.7 percent and among 30-somethings from 19.3 to 23.5 percent. Among women, high-risk drinkers rose 1.5 to 2.8 times in the age groups under 50.

      Oh Bum-jo at Boramae Medical Center in Seoul said, "High-risk alcohol consumption is increasing rapidly among young people and women. This could be due to the growing popularity of drinking alone these days." 

      ◆ Diet

      Women ate only 58.4 g of protein a day on average two years ago, down 10 percent from 1998, while protein consumption among Korean men rose from 81.7 to 85.1 g.

      Eating less meat is healthy in theory. In 2016, women consumed 84.7 g of meat a day on average, half the 150.2 g of daily meat consumption by men. Consumption of eggs, seafood, beans and mushrooms among women amounted to only 70 percent the level of what men consumed.

      But that means an alarming 27.3 percent of women do not eat enough protein. Kwon O-ran at Ewha Womans University said, "Meat supplies high-quality protein, so not eating enough of it can have a negative impact on muscle health." Kwon said people should derive more than a-third of their protein from meat.

      ◆ Salt Intake

      Salt consumption has declined, but Koreans still eat way more than the recommended amount of less than 2,000 mg a day. Men consume more than twice the recommended daily amount and women 1.4 to 1.7 times.

      The culprit seems to be eating out, because restaurants put more salt in their food than people would at home, which is particularly common among busy working people in their 20s to 50s. "Restaurant food and microwaved ready-meals are especially high in salt," said Kim Ki-rang at Dankook University.

      ◆ Coffee and Sugary Drinks

      Another disadvantage of life lived increasingly on the hoof is that daily consumption of sugary soft drinks rose 4.1 times from 45.5 g on average in 1998 to 185.3 g in 2016. This appears to be affected by the surge in coffee consumption. Korean men drank 13 cups of coffee a week on average in 2016 and women 9.6 cups.

      The recommended daily caffeine intake is less than 400 mg, which means three cups of brewed coffee or five cups of instant coffee a day are more than enough. 

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