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But Researchers Say Study's Finding Not a Reason to Start Drinking

Dec. 5, 2005 -- A new study shows that people who drink small amounts of alcohol are less likely to be obese than nondrinkers and those who drink lots of alcohol.

The study doesn't prove that light drinking blocks extra pounds. The researchers aren't encouraging anyone to start drinking to lose weight.

The researchers included Ahmed Arif, MD, PhD. Arif works in the family and community medicine department of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

The study appears online in BMC Public Health.

About the Study

Data came from a large U.S. health survey done from 1988-1994. The survey included participants' body mass index (BMI), as well as their drinking habits.

Participants were asked how much and how frequently they drank. They didn't specify whether they drank wine, beer, or liquor.

A total of 8,236 people were included. All were nonsmokers. Nearly half (46%) were current drinkers who drank at least one drink a month. The average BMI was about 26, at the lower end of the overweight BMI range.

A drink was defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4 ounces of wine
  • 1 ounce of liquor

No one was asked to change their drinking habits for the study. BMI and drinking habits were only checked once; they weren't tracked for changes over time.

Study's Findings

"Current drinkers had lower odds of obesity compared to nondrinkers," Arif writes.

However, drinking a lot of alcohol made obesity more likely.

Binge drinkers (drinking five or more drinks in a single day) and those who reported drinking four or more daily alcoholic drinks were more likely to be obese than those who reported drinking one or two daily drinks.

Also, people who reported drinking modest amounts of alcohol frequently -- totaling less than five weekly drinks, spread out over the week -- had lower odds of obesity.

Not a Magic Bullet

Alcohol wasn't a magic bullet against obesity. Almost a third of obese participants were current drinkers, the study shows.

In addition, alcohol was more weakly linked to lower odds of being overweight but not obese. That's based on these BMI definitions:

  • Overweight: BMI of 25-29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30 or more

Alcohol has calories and no nutrients. It's also got a mix of risks and benefits.

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