Mitzi Dulan – America's Nutrition Expert
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Is Alcohol Making You Fat or Keeping You Thin?
by Mitzi Dulan, RD, America’s Nutrition Expert®
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Bud LightAt face value, alcohol should be a huge diet breaker. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, which is like a cross between carbohydrates and fat. (Sort of like chocolate cake.) Additionally, alcohol takes almost no time to digest and absorb. (Sort of like chocolate cake you can inhale.) Alcohol also comes in a liquid form, and calories in liquids tend to have little effect on satisfying hunger signals. What’s more: drinking alcohol temporarily stimulates appetite and impairs judgment, making you more likely to eat larger amounts of higher calorie foods. So alcohol should be comparable to liquid chocolate cake that you inhale that makes you hungry for more high-calorie foods. In other words, alcohol should be a total diet breaker.

However, despite these facts, research shows that people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol tend to gain less weight and have lower BMIs overall compared to non-drinkers. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. One drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce of distilled spirits. Before you open a bottle to celebrate, beware: consuming more than three drinks per day or saving up for one night of binge drinking is associated with weight gain and higher BMIs.

The reason for this apparent controversy between alcohol consumption and weight is unknown. One hypothesis is that moderate alcohol consumption may increase your metabolism and burn extra calories. Another hypothesis is that other characteristics of moderate alcohol drinkers are interfering with the research data. In other words, perhaps the researches weren’t able to account for something that moderate alcohol drinkers are doing that causes them to be thinner than non-drinkers.

So, what’s the takeaway message from this controversial topic? If you do drink, please do so responsibly and in moderation. Enjoy lower-calorie beverages such as light beer and wine most of the time. If moderation is your mantra, research indicates that you can enjoy an occasional drink without much effect on your waistline. Cheers!

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