Alcohol contains calories, but drinking alcohol doesn't lead to weight gain, according to extensive medical research, and many studies report a reduction in weight for drinkers, especially women.
The reason that alcohol doesn't increase weight is unclear, but research suggests that alcohol energy is not efficiently used. Alcohol also appears to increase metabolic rate significantly, thus causing more calories to be burned rather than stored in the body as fat. Other research has found consumption of sugar to decrease as consumption of alcohol increases.
Whatever the reasons, the consumption of alcohol is not associated with weight gain and is often associated with weight loss. The medical evidence of this is based on a large number of studies of thousands of people around the world. Some of these studies are very large; one involved nearly 80,000 and another included 140,000 subjects.
Alcohol contains no fat, no cholesterol, and no sodium. Of course, the nutritional value of different alcohol beverages varies.
The moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with better health and longer life than is either abstaining from alcohol or abusing it. However, the health benefits of drinking are associated with moderation. On the other hand, heavy drinking is associated with health problems. The key is moderation.
Drinking in moderation has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as a man consuming four drinks on any day and an average of 14 drinks per week. For women, it is consuming three drinks in any one day and an average of seven drinks per week.
Standard Drinks graphically illustrates information on the alcohol equivalence of standard drinks of beer, wine, and distilled spirits or liquor.
A standard alcoholic drink is:
Standard drinks contain equivalent amounts of alcohol. To a breathalyzer, they're all the same.
There is no evidence that any particular form of alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) confers greater health benefits than any other.
People who consume one or two drinks if alcohol regularly are less likely to be obese than either people who don't drink or people who drink heavily. The study of 8,236 non-smokers found that current drinkers had a 27% lower chance of being obese than abstainers. On the other hand, heavy drinkers (those who consumed four of more drinks per day) were 46% more likely to obese than non-drinkers. read more
Women who daily consumed one to two drinks of alcoholic beverage were at least 30% less likely to gain weight than non-drinkers, found a study of over 19,000 women for a period of nearly 13 years. read more
Research involving over 37,000 non-smokers found that men and women who consumed one alcoholic drink per day, and with the greatest frequency (three to seven days per week), had the lowest body mass index (BMI). That is, they were the most lean. read more
For an eye-opener, visit Calories, Carbs & Fat in Popular Beverages
Researchers have found that consuming alcohol after a meal increased the number of calories burned after both high and low carbohydrate meals. This may help explain the finding of these researchers and many others that moderate drinkers have less body fat than abstainers. read more
Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the relation between alcohol intake and body weight in 7,230 U.S. adults 25–74 years of age who were weighed and then reweighed 10 years later. Analyses were adjusted for age, race, height, education, health status, smoking status, diet status, physical activity, and total nonalcoholic caloric intake. Both men and women who drank alcohol were significantly less likely to gain weight than were nondrinkers.1
A study followed 79,236 healthy adults in the U.S. for a ten-year period. Over that time, women's body mass index declined significantly with drinking alcohol regularly. Among men the weight reduction was less pronounced.2 Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. It is the most widely used diagnostic tool to identify weight problems within a population.
Conducted was a prospective study of 19,220 women in the U.S. aged 38.9 years or older who were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes mellitus and had a baseline body mass index (BMI) in the normal range. The researchers found that "Compared with nondrinkers, initially normal-weight women who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight and/or obese during 12.9 years of follow-up." The same was found among subgroups of age, smoking status, physical activity and baseline BMI.3
A prospective study of 43,543 men and women for an average period of five years examined alcohol consumption and changes in weight circumference. Researchers found that drinking frequency was inversely associated with major waist gain; the more frequently men and women drank alcohol, the less likely they were to gain circumference in their waists.4
Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) analyzed data from 45,896 adult never smokers who were current alcohol drinkers. They found that alcohol quantity and frequency had opposite associations with body mass index (BMI). As quantity increased from one drink per drinking day to four or more drinks per drinking day BMI increased. However, as the frequency of drinking alcohol increased (as the number of days per year that drinking alcohol occurred), BMI significantly decreased. In analyses of frequency trends within quantity categories, BMI declines were more pronounced in women than in men, but all were significant. This is consistent with other research demonstrating the importance of drinking frequently to obtain the greatest health benefits from alcohol.5
A total of 24,604 randomly selected men and women in Finland (age 25–64) participated in four cross-sectional surveys conducted at five-year intervals. The researchers concluded that "A physically active lifestyle with abstention from smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, and consumption of healthy foods maximizes the chances of having a normal weight."6
In an experimental study fourteen male subjects (mean age = 32.1 years) participated in a 12-week, free-living, crossover trial in which they either drank red wine (270 ml; 13% v/v ethanol) daily for 6 weeks and then abstained for the next 6 weeks or vice-versa. The researchers found that whether wine was consumed or not, there was no significant difference in body weight, body fat percentage, skinfold thickness, resting metabolic rate, or caloric intake. They concluded that "In free-living subjects over a 6-week period, the addition of two glasses of red wine to the evening meal does not appear to influence any measured variable which may adversely affect body weight or promote the development of obesity during this time period."7
Analysis of data from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES I) revealed that "Among drinkers, the intakes of nonalcoholic calories decreased as alcohol intakes increased, and it was estimated that between 15 and 41% of the alcoholic calories replaced nonalcoholic calories. Despite their higher caloric intakes, drinkers were not more obese than nondrinkers, suggesting that alcoholic calories may be less efficiently utilized than nonalcoholic calories, or may interfere with utilization of nonalcoholic calories. The most salient difference in nutrient intake between drinkers and nondrinkers was the substantially lower carbohydrate intake of drinkers."8
The cigarette smoking habits, alcohol consumption and body weight of 5,757 male and female smokers age 35-60 in Finland were assessed. Researchers found that "There were no significant differences in BMI between alcohol drinkers and abstainers in either men or women."9
An analysis of the dietary subsample of the 1992 Finmonica cardiovascular risk factor survey in Finland, consisting of 1,848 men and women age 25-64, was conducted. It found that caloric intake from drinking alcohol largely substituted that from other foods and that "Alcohol consumers were leaner than abstainers."10
This website makes no suggestions or recommendations about drinking alcohol, weight, or any other health matter and none should be inferred.
Filed Under: Diet