According to a new report in the March 8th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, normal-weight women who drink a light-to-moderate amount of alcohol appear to gain less weight and have a lower risk of becoming overweight and obese than non-drinkers.
Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram, and there are approximately 28 grams per ounce -- so it is possible to see that alcohol drinking could indeed contribute to weight gain. However, research has not provided evidence that consuming alcohol is a risk factor for obesity. In fact, studies like this one suggest that a moderate consumption of alcohol can actually have the opposite effect.
Dr. Lu Wang of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) and colleagues studied more than 19,000 U.S. women age 39 or older with normal weight. On an initial questionnaire, participants reported how many alcoholic beverages they typically drank per day. A total of 7,346 reported drinking no alcohol; 6,312 drank less than 5 grams; 3,865 drank 5 to less than 15 grams; 1,129 drank 15 to less than 30 grams; and 568 drank 30 grams per day or more.
Over an average of 13 years of follow-up, women on average gained weight progressively. Women who did not drink alcohol at all gained the most weight, with weight gain decreasing as alcohol intake increased. A total of 7,942 (41.3 percent) women who initially had normal weight become overweight or obese, including 732 who become obese. Compared with women who did not drink at all, those who consumed some but less than 40 grams per day of alcohol were less likely to become overweight or obese. Women who drank 15 to less than 30 grams per day had the lowest risk, which was almost 30 percent lower than that of non-drinkers.
“An inverse association between alcohol intake and risk of becoming overweight or obese was noted for all four types of alcoholic beverages [red wine, white wine, beer and liquor], with the strongest association found for red wine and a weak yet significant association for white wine after multivariate adjustment,” the authors write.
The authors caution that, given potential medical and psychosocial problems related to drinking alcohol, its beneficial and adverse effects for each individual must be considered before making any recommendation about its use. It's interesting to note the red wine connection here once again.