Alcohol in Moderation?

Alcohol and weight gain often go together

Is alcohol fattening?  Not always. Alcoholics or near-alcoholics are often slim.

Alcohol and weight gain

alcohol and weight gain do not always go togetherA lcohol contains quite a lot of calories, so it must be fattening. Right? Maybe not, as the relationship between alcohol and weight gain is quite controversial. Some experts actually say that, drunk in moderation, alcohol can help in losing weight. Other health benefits are also claimed for it. The whole topic of alcohol and weight is, in fact, a bit of a mystery!

The Opinions of Various Institutions

Part of the State University of New York (Potsdam) has a website called Alcohol  –  Problems and Solutions. In the first paragraph of the Health page, they say that “moderate drinkers tend to have better health.” They also live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers.

The Mayo Clinic, another American organisation, is ambiguous. They refer to alcohol´s reputation for being both beneficial and harmful to health. They refer specifically to the possibility that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the chances of getting heart disease. It may also reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. If you are a non-drinker, they say, you should not start drinking for possible benefits. The benefits are not certain.

One might expect the USA National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to be unequivocally against drinking (of alcohol!). In fact it is not. They reportedly said that moderate drinkers have the greatest life expectancy. They also found that moderate drinking is beneficial for heart health. On their website, they have a section entitled “Health Benefits of  Moderate Alcohol Consumption”.

Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating recommends drinking in moderation. Unless there is reason not to in particular cases. During a UK study lasting 13 years, an analysis of the health of 12,000 male doctors found moderate alcohol drinkers to have the lowest death rate from all causes during the study period.

And so on. It would be possible to go on at great length, citing studies and conclusions by experts. Many of them say that alcohol appears beneficial to general health and also to not be fattening. IN MODERATION!

Alcohol and weight

There are conflicting opinions on the effect of alcohol on weight.  The State University of New York (Potsdam) start the Alcohol and Weight page of their Alcohol website with the following:

“Alcohol contains calories, but drinking alcohol doesn’t lead to weight gain”, they say. This is  “according to extensive medical research, and some studies report a small reduction in weight for women who drink.”

There are various respectable organisations which agree with them.  Or who disagree.  How could alcohol, loaded with calories, not be fattening? The possible reasons generally given are that alcohol increases metabolic rate. Also, that it is only processed inefficiently by the body. A further reason given is that consumption of alcohol tends to reduce sugar consumption.  A survey of 1,000 dieters, carried out by the Forza Supplements Company, found that one in four dieters ruin the effects of the diet with alcohol. This also reduces their willpower, so that they become more likely to consume (fattening) fast food. Forza are also quoted as saying that the key to successful dieting lies in cutting out alcohol. It increases appetite by suppressing the hormone leptin, responsible for telling your brain when you´ve had enough.

What is moderate drinking?

Most countries define it quite similarly  –  14 or 15 standard alcoholic drinks a week for men, no more than 4 on any one day.  7 drinks a week for women, not more than 3 on any one day. Many of the experts are positively encouraging towards “moderate” alcohol consumption. Their definition of “moderate” is surprisingly high, at least, for men.

Calorie content of some common alcoholic drinks here.

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