Alcohol and Weight Loss – There’s More To It Than Calories

By now most of us know that drinking too much alcohol can have serious health consequences such as increased risk for cardiovascular disease, arrhythmia, thrombosis, liver disease, etc. It is also well-known to be a contributor to unwanted weight gain.

So we’ve learned to ask for the “skinny”, low-carb drinks and to make sure to skip on high-sugar additions such as sodas and juices.  But just because a drink doesn’t have any carbs, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any calories or other effects. Calories are not the only factor that influences your metabolism and body weight.

Did you know that calories are not the main reason why alcohol is so bad for your metabolism? It actually is what the alcohol does to your body that is so damaging.

Your body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbs. Thus drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption can slow fat metabolism drastically (Dumesnil, et al., 2013, Yeomans, 2010).

The effect of alcohol on health and body mass index (BMI) is affected by both total intake, drinking patterns, type of drink, and gender:

  • Binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity, when compared to moderate alcohol intake.
  • Increased number of studies have shown that gender may be an influencing factor on how alcohol is metabolized:
    • For women, epidemiological data has suggested that moderate alcohol intake (1-2 drinks per day) is related to less weight gain.
  • Type of alcoholic drink is also important. For example, wine and beer has been associated to lower BMI and waist circumference when compared to other types of alcoholic drinks.

According to the studies reviewed for this article, the effects of alcohol can be summarized into three broad factors that negatively impact body weight:

  • It stimulates appetite
  • Decreases fat burn
  • Increases fat storage

Drinking too much alcohol, can not only increase your caloric intake and make you gain weight but can drastically slow down your body’s ability to burn fat, which in turn can causes excess body fat. To help you make better caloric choices, I’ve included a handy table from the Washington Post.

When drinking, be informed and drink moderately!

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References:

Clugston, Robin D.; Blaner, William S. 2012. The Adverse Effects of Alcohol on Vitamin A Metabolism. Nutrients 4(5): 356-371.

Dumesnil, C., Dauchet, L., Ruidavets, J. B., Bingham, A., Arveiler, D., Ferrières, J., Dallongeville, J. (2013). Alcohol consumption patterns and body weight. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 62(2), 91-7.

Yeomans, M. R. (2010). Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: Is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity? Physiology & Behavior 100(2010):82-89.

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2 thoughts on “Alcohol and Weight Loss – There’s More To It Than Calories

  1. Interesting blog post! I have been staying away from alcohol since I am trying to lose weight. Do you know why moderate alcohol intake is associated with decreased weight gain? Thanks!

    • I’m glad you liked it. From the available research it appears that in women, moderate alcohol consumption is metabolized different than in men. In some studies it is highlighted that the results could be influenced not only by gender but the type of alcohol because a large number of women that were evaluated for the studies drank wine, while men tend to drink more beer and other drinks. No doubt that there a lot of room for additional research in this area but for now, it is quite fascinating and a bit encouraging if you’re a woman 🙂

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