Alcohol and your weight.

Alcohol whether we like it or not is part of our social culture. We drink it with our friends and we drink it with food. But is it making us fat?

Put simply, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram. This means that per gram of alcohol you consume is almost double the calories you would get from a gram of protein or carbohydrate. Not to mention the sugary mixer that would most probably go with it. So if alcohol is consumed regularly with a cup of mixer such as tonic or tomato juice you could easily add a significant amount of calories to your daily intake, which over time could add to your waist line.

Women in NZ are recommended to have no more than two drinks in a sitting and two days in the week alcohol free. Men are recommended to have no more than three in a sitting and two alcohol free days per week.  A standard drink is equal to 10 grams of alcohol. This is 330mL of 4 per cent beer, 170mL of champagne, 30g nip of spirits or 100mL of wine. So often when you are pouring yourself one glass of wine it is really two or three.

With all this considered it would be fair to say that regular consumption of alcohol could make it extremely difficult to shift unwanted weight or even maintain weight if you were drinking above and beyond the guidelines. Not to mention the damage that it does to your liver.

But what about light to moderate amounts of alcohol, could you maintain your weight? There is research that suggests women who consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol, meaning within the guidelines, have actually been shown to maintain their BMI (weight) more effectively than women who did not drink at all or to women who drank to excess. At a guess, this could be because women who limit their alcohol intake could be health conscious compared to those who drink to excess. Women who are more health conscious could also be more likely to counteract the extra calories with exercise or decreasing energy intake. But overall, it is hard to say. Particularly considering a lot of the research carried out is epidemiological data, which means it tends to be quite unreliable.  

For years, we have studied populations who live long and healthy lives. Everybody wants to know the secret to how they keep the years on their life and the life in their years. One thing many of these populations have in common is a glass of wine at 5pm. Maybe it is the wine itself that is contributing to such high quality lives with longevity or maybe it is that they drink it in the company of friends that matter to them and drink it in moderation.

All things considered my advice would be this: If your aim is to lose weight, you would get away with a couple of standards drinks a week and not much more than that. Enjoy it with friends and don’t over do it. Thanks for reading.