Drinking Alcohol and Weight: You Might be Surprised

Are drinking alcohol and weight gain connected? We hear much about the calories in alcohol. So what’s the story?

I. The Study

Researchers wanted to find out. To do so, they studied 37,000 non-smokers for five years. Smoking and drinking interact to influence weight. Therefore, the researchers limited their study to people who had never smoked. Thus, they could focus entirely on the effects of alcohol itself on weigh.

Some people are tall while others are short. This creates problems. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Therefore, medical researchers use body mass index (BMI). That’s because BMI considers height.

The researchers found that those who had one drink per day had the lowest BMI. Drinking frequently was best for low BMI.

Drinking Pattern Important

Drinking Alcohol and WeightSo frequent light and moderate drinkers were the leanest. On the other hand, infrequent heavy drinkers were the heaviest.

This shows the importance of drinking pattern. For example, having a drink every day in the week is linked to healthful weight. However, having seven in one day was linked to obesity.

Health & Long Life

Simply looking at the total quantity of alcohol consumed over time obscures the importance of the pattern of drinking. One or two drinks each day is linked to better health and longer life. On the other hand, having the same quantity (seven to fourteen drinks) once a week is associated with poor health. The same quantity of alcohol can be either beneficial or harmful depending on the pattern of drinking.

Obesity is a serious risk factor for many diseases as well as early death.

The research was based on data collected as part of the National Health Interview Study (NHIS). The researchers are from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

II. Resources: Drinking Alcohol and Weight

Web Pages


Breslow, R. and Smothers, B. Drinking pattern and body mass index in never smokers. Am J Epi, 2005, 161(4), 368-376.


This website is for information only. Thus, it makes no suggestions about drinking alcohol and weight gain or loss.