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Alcohol and weight is a subject relevant to millions of people who like to drink alcoholic beverages and who also either want to maintain or to lose body weight. It appears that drinking alcohol does not necessarily lead to weight gain. Most studies find no increase in body weight, some find an increase, and some find a small decrease among women who begin consuming alcohol (Colditz et al.; Hellerstedt et al.; Istvan et al.; Jequer; Kahn et al.; Klesges et al.; Landes; Liu et al.; Mannisto et al., 1996; Mannisto et al., 1997; Prentice; Arif & Rohrer, 2005). Some of these studies are very large; one involved nearly 80,000 and another included 140,000 subjects.
These findings are surprising because alcohol itself contains 7 calories per gram, and some alcoholic drinks also contain carbohydrates. The reason that alcohol may not increase weight is unclear, but research suggests that alcohol energy is not efficiently used. Alcohol also appears to increase metabolic rate significantly, thus causing more calories to be burned rather than stored in the body as fat (Klesges et al., 1994). Other research has found consumption of sugar to decrease as consumption of alcohol increases.
The research results do not necessarily mean that people who wish to lose weight should continue to consume alcohol. The relationship between alcohol and weight remains unresolved and will remain so until more research is conducted that can clarify any apparent discrepancies in findings.
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- Alcohol and Body Weight in the United States
- Barry Groves' article Alcohol and Weight Loss
- Calories in Alcohol table
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