Drinking Alcohol Reduces Weight Gain

Women who consumed one or two alcoholic drinks on a daily basis gained less weight during mid-life than did abstainers, according to medical researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The investigators studied over 19,000 women aged 38.9 years or older whose weight was initially in the normal range. Information about the diets and lifestyles of the women was recorded for nearly 13 years.

After adjusting for age, baseline weight, smoking, nonalcohol energy intake, physical activity level, and other dietary and lifestyle factors, women who consumed one or two drinks were at least 30% less likely to gain weight over the period of the study.

The inverse relationship between amount of alcohol consumed and weight (that is, the more alcohol consumed, the lower the weight) was also found among subgroups of women based on age, smoking, level of physical activity, and initial weight.

These research findings are consistent with those of earlier investigations on the relationship between drinking alcohol and weight gain or loss.

The authors of this study note that women exhibit a substantial increase in energy expenditure after drinking, suggesting that they might experience a net loss of calories after drinking alcoholic beverages. This may account for the fact that drinkers were much less likely to gain weight.

The moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine and liquor or distilled spirits) is also associated with better health and longer life than is either abstaining from alcohol or abusive drinking [learn more about Alcohol and Health].

Standard drinks of beer, wine and distilled spirits contain an equivalent amount of alcohol and have equivalent health benefits. A standard drink refers to:

They're all the same to a breathalyzer as well as to both good health and long life. For more, visit Standard Drinks.

The following list presents the calories, carbs and fat found in standard servings of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Beverage Calories Carbs (grams) Fat (grams)
Alcoholic
Beer (regular) 146 13.13 .000
Beer (lite) 99 4.60 .000
All Distilled Spirits (rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, bourbon, etc.) 97 0.00 .000
Wine (red) 125 3.5 .000
Wine (white) 120 3.5 .000
Non-Alcoholic
Apple juice (unsweetened) 117 28.96 .273
Apricot juice 140 36.11 .226
Carbonated cola 155 39.77 .000
Grape juice (unsweetened) 155 37.84 .202
Grapefruit juice (unsweetened) 94 22.13 .247
Lemonade 131 34.05 .149
Milk (2% fat) 122 11.41 4.807
Orange juice (unsweetened) 112 26.84 .149
Prune juice 182 44.67 .077
Tangerine juice (unsweetened) 125 29.88 .098
Tomato juice 41 10.30 .122
  • Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16-1. Available at www.nal.usda.gov/.

Although most alcohol beverages contain fewer calories than most non-alcohol beverages, some people are still concerned about gaining weight from consuming them. However, alcohol contains no fat and is very low in carbohydrates. Additionally, it appears that the "effective" calories in alcohol are substantially lower than the numbers listed.

The bottom line is that women who consumed one or two drinks of alcohol each day gained significantly less weight than did alcohol abstainers.

Note: This website does not provide nutritional or medical advice about drinking alcohol and weight gain or any other subject and none should be inferred.

Source of study reported:

  • Wang, L, et al. Alcohol consumption, weight gain, and risk of becoming overweight in middle-aged and older women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010, 170(5), 453-461.

Readings on Drinking Alcohol and Weight Gain and Loss:

  • (listing does not imply endorsement)
  • Arif, A.A., and Rohrer, J.E. Patterns of alcohol drinking and its association with obesity: data from the third national health and nutrition examination survey, 1988-1994. BMC Public Health, 2005, 5(5), 126.
  • Berkey, C.S., et al. Weight gain in older adolescent females: the internet, sleep, coffee, and alcohol. Journal of Pediatrics, 2008, 153(5), 639.
  • Clevidence, B.A., et al. Lean and heavy women may not use energy from alcohol with equal efficiency. Journal of Nutrition, 1995, 125(10), 2536-2540.
  • Colditz, G., et al. Alcohol intake in relation to diet and obesity in women and men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, 54, 49-55.
  • Cordain, L., et al. Influence of moderate daily wine consumption upon body weight regulation and metabolism in healthy free living males. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1997, 16(2), 134-13.
  • Gruchow, H.W., et al. Alcohol consumption, nutrient intake and relative body weight among U.S. adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1985, 42, 289-295.
  • Hellerstedt, W. L., et al. The association between alcohol intake and adiposity in the general population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1990, 132(4), 594-611.
  • Istvan, J., et al. The relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and body weight, International Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 24(3), 543-546.
  • Jequier, E. Alcohol intake and body weight: a paradox. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, 69, 173-174.
  • Lee, D.H., et al. Body weight, alcohol consumption and liver enzyme activity -- a 4-year follow-up study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2001, 30(4), 766-770.
  • Lee, D.H., et al. Body weight, alcohol intake and liver enzymes. International Clinical Nutrition Review, 2002, 22(3), 101.
  • Liu, S., et al. A prospective study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 140(10), 912-920.
  • Mannisto, E., et al. Reported alcohol intake, diet and body mass index in male smokers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996, 50, 239-245.
  • Mannisto, S., et al. Alcohol beverage drinking, diet and body mass index in a cross-national survey, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 151, 326-332.
  • Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(Suppl. 5), S44-S50.
  • Smith, R.S. Alcohol Consumption Does not Promote Weight Gain in Female Mice. Thesis. University of Texas at Austin, 2007.
  • Sung, K.C., et al. Relationship among alcohol, body weight, and cardiovascular risk factors in 27,030 Korean men. Diabetes Care, 2007, 30(10), 2690-2694.
  • Wannamethee, S.G., et al. Alcohol intake and 8-year weight gain in women: a prospective study. Obesity Research, 2004, 12, 1386-1396.

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