Truth About Alcohol and Your Weight

Hold on to your seats, but here is another alcohol myth buster for you. According to a new study alcohol does not cause weight gain. In a new science book that relies on a long list of medical evidence, it finds that alcohol does not make you fat, and that it is actually good for your health. Grab a glass of wine (not beer) and read on.

One of the key advice given on almost all diets is to cut down or even remove alcohol from your diet. With the holiday season upon us, it is usually recommended to remove alcohol from your diet in exchange for extra food you will be eating.

In popular infographics and dieting motivational posters you will be told that a glass of wine contains as many calories as a slice of cake or how two pints of beer are roughly the equivalent in calories to a full glass of single cream. If you have seen any of these, then this article is probably making your head spin.

Here is the kicker: There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support the idea that alcohol makes you put on weight.

I must agree, that it does seem like a no brainer that alcohol must cause weight gain given the high amount of calories it contains. It seems similar to stuffing yourself with sweets and desserts. To parrot most nutritionists; alcohol is high in calories, drinking must therefore put on weight.

However the fact remains that alcohol isn’t fattening.

Professor Charles S. Lieber of Harvard University was probably the greatest expert on alcohol and health the world has ever seen, and he founded the first scientific journal on alcohol. He was also the first to establish a link between alcohol and liver disease. It is easy to say that he was no no friend of alcohol and would not be bias in boosting the image of alcohol. Yet in 1991 he firmly rejected the notion that alcohol has any significant effect on weight.

Alcohol Does Not Cause Weight Gain

Study of Alcohol Weight Gain

During a medical study conducted at Harvard, a survey was given to 20,000 middle-aged women that asked about their drinking habits. Their weight were tracked for almost 13 years. When the study started, the women were all roughly dress sizes 6 to 10. By the end of the study, 9,000 women had put on significant amounts of weight, and some had become clinically diagnosed as obese.

The study found that the women who gained weight didn’t drink alcohol, and the skinniest women were the heaviest drinkers.

The women who drank five grams of alcohol a day reduced their risk of being overweight by 4%. Those who drank one medium glass of wine a day reduced their risk gaining weight by 14%.

Drinking two medium glasses of wine a day or more gave the women an incredible 70% reduction in obesity risk.

This study showed that alcohol is not only non-fattening, but actually helps prevent weight gain. A leading factor to obesity leading many patients to reduce their weight with weight loss surgery.

It is important to know that researchers made full allowances for obvious lifestyle differences that might have skewed the results, such as exercise, food intake and smoking habits.

However it doesn’t stop there. Here are just three of the studies conducted in the past 25 years which demonstrate that alcohol doesn’t cause weight gain:

University of Denmark Study

6 study of 43,500 people by the University of Denmark. Key findings: teetotallers and infrequent drinkers ended up with the biggest waistlines, daily drinkers had the smallest.

University College Medical School, London Study

8 study of 49,300 women by University College Medical School, London. Key findings: women who drank below 30 grams a day (around two medium glasses of wine) were up to 24 per cent less likely to put on weight than teetotallers.

U.S. National Center for Disease Control

10 study of 7,230 people by the U.S. National Center for Disease Control. Key findings: drinkers gained less weight than non-drinkers. Alcohol intake did not increase the risk of obesity.

There are at least a dozen more studies on alcohol and weight which, by and large, confirm these results. Given the obesity epidemic, you would expect doctors to be rushing to prescribe two glasses of wine a day for overweight patients.

Alcohol Does Not Cause Weight Gain

How Alcohol Causes Weight Loss

In a simple study from 1997, U.S. sports scientists examined if drinking a couple of glasses of wine a day puts on weight or not. A 14 men were studied for 12 weeks. During the study the men either drank a third of a bottle of red wine a day for six weeks, then abstained for the next six weeks, or vice-versa.

The results found that the addition of two glasses of red wine to the evening meal had no effect on the men’s weight.

It found that alcohol could be reducing glucose levels at the same time, thus helping to keep weight down. The study concluded that if taking in extra calories from alcohol doesn’t put on weight, it must mean alcohol somehow makes people eat less.

Another theory was alcohol causes the body to heat up and possibly affecting fat metabolism, but the results were inconclusive.

In fact, if you search the literature, you’ll find no one has any explanation for why alcohol calories don’t seem to count.

Alcohol Does Not Cause Weight Gain

Calories From Alcohol

Today we are told alcohol puts on weight, because it supposedly contains lots of calories. Where does this statement come from? Well, first you need to understand what calories actually measure and the history of this system.

In the 1880s, the American agricultural chemist Wilbur O. Atwater decided to see how much energy different types of foods contained. To measure the energy he decided to treat different foods like coal, and burn them to ash in a furnace and measure how much heat each one produced. This energy became the amount of calories in food.

The original intent at that time was to prevent people from starving, not from becoming obese.

This is still the system we’re using 150 years on. Atwater’s mistake was to assume that the body would assimilate the energy in food in the same way as a furnace, and obviously the body doesn’t.

Alcohol, of course, is highly combustible. Obviously when it is tested in the food furnance it burns like gasoline. However, that makes about as much sense as saying that because coal burns ten times hotter than alcohol, you’d put on loads of weight if you were to eat it.

The reason you don’t put on weight from coal or alcohol because your body can’t assimilate the energy within either of them.

This example is not exclusive to alcohol. It is the same for many other types of foods. Another great example is nuts. Nuts are among the top ten most calorific foods. However, study after study has consistently shown they don’t cause weight gain. Two studies have shown when people are given diets with identical calories, they put on less weight when the diets contain nuts.

Alcohol Does Not Cause Weight Gain

Medical Studies of Calories from Alcohol

2004: Study by nutritionists at Brazil’s Fluminense Federal University, who did a series of highly controlled experiments with young laboratory rats. They found the more alcohol the rats were given to consume, the more weight that the rats lost — even though their total caloric intake remained stable.
2008: At the University of Austin, Texas, found the same thing in their study with mice. Two groups of mice were given plain water or water containing 20% alcohol. To the researchers’ surprise, although both groups of mice at the same amount of food, the alcoholic mice put on no extra weight.

As stated previously, the alcohol calories were not assimilated in either study.

Alcohol Does Not Cause Weight Gain

Okay, what about the well-known Beer Belly? There seems to be no denying that. Head to any bar and you will see the stools lined with men sporting this robust belly. Are calories in beer an exception?

Yes, there are calories, but if you do not count the calories associated with alcohol there are only 50 carbohydrate calories per pint. Anyone familiar with slimming diets will know that 50 calories is no where near the amount required to transform your belly. Obviously the beer belly must be coming from something else.

In the 80s the English nutritionist David Jenkins started assessing how much glucose was created by every food containing carbohydrates. Each food was given a numerical number out of 100. Thus the Glycaemic Index was born. This tells us that potato chips score high at 95, while green vegetables score a low 10. Nuts score only between 15 and 20 because they produce so little glucose.

Alcohol Does Not Cause Weight Gain

A French scientist called Michel Montignac was able to correlate this data with weight gain. He argued that, because fat is deposited in the body as a result of excess glucose, the way to lose weight is to choose foods that produce the least glucose. Since he ignored the dogma of calories, many nutritionists did not sign on to his reports.

The bad news for beer drinkers is that their favorite swig scores very highly on the GI chart. This is from the ingredients and not the alcohol. It is made up of malt sugar, which is formed by two units of glucose coming together. On the GI Chart it scores off the charts to a 110 – some beers score much higher than glucose itself.

Wine and spirits on the other hand score extremely low.

Weight Loss Conclusion

With so many conflicting reports, misinformation, and unbelievable commercial your head is probably spinning. Leaving you unsure which direction to turn. We even had a story earlier that showed how drinks vary in content adding to the confusion of which alcoholic drink is better, so we would like to close with this.

We are not touting you to drink. Instead we are encouraging you to live a balanced life. You know your body best, and know what foods are healthy. Make sure you are eating healthy, but more importantly, living a healthy and active life consistently.


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