If you enjoy chilling out with a glass of wine, a gin and tonic or a beer, you're definitely not alone. However, it pays to go careful if you want to stay a healthy weight. When it comes to alcohol and metabolism, what's the story?
There's no evidence that alcohol slows metabolism. However, those alcohol calories can quickly add up, so drink in moderation to avoid weight gain.
Alcohol and Metabolic Rate
Though this study was an animal one, it fits with other evidence, such as that summarized in a January 2015 review in Current Obesity Reports. This review noted that frequent light to moderate alcohol intake isn't associated with obesity risk, though heavier drinking can be. It's possible regular lighter drinkers may have healthier habits overall, which protects against weight gain.
Alcohol and Weight Gain
If you're trimming down, the October 2017 FASEB Journal study might encourage you to think you can drink alcohol and lose weight faster. Not so—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate alcohol consumption is only one drink per day for women and up to two for men. With higher intake, the calories contained in booze — 155 calories in a 12-ounce beer, 123 calories in a 5-ounce white wine and 97 calories in 1.5 ounces of gin according to the USDA — can't be dismissed.
An October 2012 study in Public Health Nutrition found that men who binge-drank, defined as more than seven drinks per session at least once a week, were more likely to be obese and have high blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides. Women who drank more than three drinks at least once a week are at risk of higher blood glucose and blood pressure.
Alcohol might also cause weight gain by increasing appetite. A small July 2015 study in Obesity found that women's brains responded to the aromas of desirable foods more dramatically after drinking, and they ate more of these foods when alcohol was in their blood.
Curb the Booze to Fight Belly Fat
The aforementioned October 2012 Public Health Nutrition study found that the more frequently men binge-drank, the more abdominal fat they carried. Internal abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, collects around organs such as the liver and pancreas and is harmful to health. Therefore, moderating alcohol, along with other diet and exercise steps to reduce belly fat, is vital.
It's possible that some types of alcoholic drinks might be worse for belly fat than others. A February 2013 review of studies in Nutrition Reviews found that consuming more than 1 pint of beer a day may be linked to abdominal obesity. Carbohydrates might be a contributory factor here; with 12.8 grams per 12-ounce serving, according to the USDA, beer contains more carbohydrates than many other types of alcoholic drinks.
The September 2012 issue of International Journal of Obesity suggests wine protects against weight gain more effectively than liquor or beer. Overall, though, there's little evidence that one drink is any more or less likely to give you a wider waistline than another — the healthiest bet is to be cautious with them all.
- FASEB Journal: Moderate Alcohol Intake Induces Thermogenic Brown/Beige Adipocyte Formation via Elevating Retinoic Acid Signaling
- Mayo Clinic: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How you Burn Calories
- Current Obesity Reports: Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update
- CDC: Alcohol and Public Health FAQ
- USDA: Food Data Central
- Public Health Nutrition: Gender-Specific Relationships Between Alcohol Drinking Patterns and Metabolic Syndrome: The Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2008
- Obesity: The Apéritif Effect: Alcohol's Effects on the Brain's Response to Food Aromas in Women
- Nutrition Reviews: Is Beer Consumption Related to Measures of Abdominal and General Obesity? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- International Journal of Obesity: Alcohol Consumption and Body Weight Change in Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women's Health Initiative