We’re bingeing for England, En-ger-land

Brits set to consume 774 billion calories in snacks, 95 billion calories in drinks and almost 3 billion units of alcohol during the World Cup.

11 June 2010

Posted in Financial results

With the 2010 World Cup fast approaching, an investigation by AXA Health has revealed that millions of football supporters in the UK could be risking their health, with alcohol and calorie consumption and time spent on the sofa set to soar for the duration of the tournament.

The research, which looked at health risks associated with World Cup overindulgence, found that:

  • Football supporters say they will be glued to the TV for more than 26 hours on average during the World Cup tournament, with men facing 38 hours of World Cup TV viewing
  • UK adults will watch on average 15 of the 64 World Cup games over the course of the four week tournament
  • More than 20,180 calories in snacks will be consumed on average by each adult during 15 World Cup games. That's equivalent to 72 Mars bars, 37 Big Macs, 32 roast beef dinners or almost a stone in weight of cheddar cheese!
  • During each match, adults will on average consume 1,345 calories in food (excluding drinks) - almost three-quarters of women's recommended daily allowance and two-thirds of men's. It would take over eight solid days of washing up or 98 hours to walk off these World Cup calories.
  • A further 95.5 billion calories will be consumed in alcohol and soft drinks, with adults consuming on average 76 units of alcohol over the tournament
  • After an England result, men reckon they're likelier to 'score' in the bedroom than their female counterparts (13% vs 9%)
  • Health threats to overindulgent World Cup TV viewers' include hangovers and liver damage and, from putting on the pounds, increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. And, for fans with underlying coronary heart disease, there's an increased risk of heart attacks, especially during stressful crunch matches

World Cup consumption

AXA Health's research shows that the average Brit plans to watch 15 games during the World Cup, which, at 90 minutes a game (plus half time) could equate to up to 26 hours of inactivity. More than half (56 per cent) will watch the game at home with family or friends, while 15 per cent will be in a pub or club with mates.

The World Cup looks set to lead to an increase in alcohol consumption, with the average fan planning to drink nine units of alcohol during each game. When it comes to favoured tipples, beer or cider's the drink for the fellas (expected to account for 80 per cent of men's match-time drinking) whereas women are less single minded, with 48% plumping for beer/cider, 30% for wine and 21% for spirits.

Calorie consumption will rocket too, as the nation piles on the pounds with takeaways, savoury snacks and chocolate/sweets:


Calories per snack to be consumed by the nation during the World Cup

Number of portions consumed



301,709,184 packets



111,019,776 packets



41,129,088 packets

Takeaway kebab


41,416,704 servings

Takeaway pizza


140,931,840 slices

Takeaway Chinese


72,479,232 servings

Takeaway curry


54,071,808 servings

Takeaway fish and chips


57,523,200 portions

Takeaway sausage and chips


24,447,360 portions

Microwave finger snacks


13,805,568 servings

Microwave meals


22,434,048 meals



21,571,200 bowls



82,833,408 sandwiches

Home cooked pasta


38,828,160 meals

Other home cooked meal


49,182,336 meals

Fresh fruit


43,717,632 pieces of fruit

Ice cream


50,045,184 bowls



127,701,504 standard bars



88,873,344 packets



73,342,080 portions



26,748,288 portions

AXA Health's GP adviser Dr Martin Bell, said “The health risks posed by inactivity and excess alcohol and calories are significant, leading to obesity, and with it, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And, while we might be passionate about our national game, for those with underlying coronary heart disease the high emotional stress of watching a do or die match can, in some cases, be sufficient to trigger a heart attack.

“World Cup fever is definitely set to hit the UK, and we don't want to discourage people from enjoying the fun and the great atmosphere the tournament brings. However, it's important that football fans appreciate the dangers associated with overindulgence and long periods of inactivity, and look at ways to lessen these risks to their health.”

Stressful sessions

Brits are set to feel the strain as over half the UK adult population admit to feeling symptoms of acute stress when watching a crucial match on television. These are manifested in various ways and include:

  • Almost 12 million adults (31%) experience an increased heart rate
  • Five and a half million get sweaty palms, and four and a quarter million feel hot and bothered
  • Three million experience trembling, and one and a half million feel faint, while one and a quarter million are faced with rapid, shallow breathing

It matters more to men

When it comes to the crunch, men feel the pressure more than women, with nearly 65% admitting to having experienced stress related symptoms (faster heart beat, sweaty palms, feeling hot etc) during clutch matches, compared with 41% of women.

And, while two-fifths of women cover their eyes when things go wrong on the pitch, they might do better to cover their ears as men get their disappointment off their chests by shouting foul and abusive language (39%) and berating the team (33.33%).

However, when we win most men (56%) like to ‘wind down’ with a celebratory alcoholic drink, while a third of women prefer a cuppa (32%). And it's wham bam thank you fan for 13% of fellas (but for rather fewer women - 9%) who say they have sex to celebrate.

World Cup health risks

Studies have shown that the high emotional stress experienced while watching their team play decisive World Cup matches (especially those involving penalty shoot outs) is associated with increased calls to the emergency services and admissions to hospital by fans suffering from acute heart problems, including myocardial infarction (heart attacks), cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and even cardiac arrest.

With excessive alcohol consumption comes the risk of accidental injury, blacking out and choking on vomit as well as a longer-term risk of liver damage. Excess calories from snacking and drinking result in not only piling on the pounds but increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And there is growing evidence that these health risks are compounded by the inactivity associated with protracted spells of TV viewing.

Beat the World Cup bulge

AXA Health's personal fitness trainer Lucy Wyndham-Read recommends using the breaks during a football match to combat high levels of lethargy.

  • Try short bursts of activity throughout the game, by jumping up every time your team scores a goal, or during half time.
  • Star jumps, calf raises, side reaches and lunges can all be performed in short bursts, and will help you feel part of the action! Don't forget a gentle warm up beforehand.
  • Keep active - don't let the match replace your normal activities, so plan a swim, jog or brisk walk around the fixtures.
  • Posture is important - try not to slouch during the game to avoid neck and back pain.
  • If the game has been stressful and tense, try to relax with breathing exercises such as gently breathing in, exhaling for a little longer, pausing for a few moments, inhaling again and repeating

AXA Health's Nutrition and Fitness pages contains healthy recipes for creating your own low calorie dips and snacks.

  • Replace high calorie, strong lagers with a lighter, low alcohol version. You'll consume fewer units of alcohol as well as fewer calories.
  • Try making lower calorie homemade pita chips. Made by breaking up pieces of pita bread, brushing them with olive oil and baking them until they become crisp.
  • Vegetable crudités, vegetable crisps or pretzels are all low calorie alternatives to standard crisps or tortilla chips.
  • Make healthy dips - mash together avocados, lemon juice, tomatoes and a pinch of salt to make guacamole, or combine tomatoes, garlic, coriander, onion and chillies to make a salsa.