Researchers in England labeled bottles of beer as either low-strength or high-strength and found that people drank 20 percent more when they chose the one labeled as weaker, even though they all contained the same amount of alcohol.
When people choose virtuous products, like low-fat ice cream or skinny margaritas, they give themselves permission to consume more than they would of the indulgent versions, says study author Milica Vasiljevic, Ph.D., a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge. It’s a psychological phenomenon known as the self-licensing effect.
Beers with lower alcohol contents also have fewer calories, so choosing the weaker one may sound like the smart choice from a diet standpoint. But if you end up drinking more of it, you cancel out any potential benefits of making that decision in the first place, she says.
Ordering the stronger drink over the lighter option can help you keep your calorie intake under control, as long as you don't overindulge. The FDA recommends one drink per day for women and two for men.