Obesity Less Common for Light Drinkers
But Researchers Say Study's Finding Not a Reason to Start Drinking
WebMD News Archive
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
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
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
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
"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
Don't Start Drinking for Weight Loss
The report shows a pattern between BMI and alcohol use, but it doesn't nail
down the connection.
Here are the researchers' conclusions:
"Actively promoting moderate use of alcohol as a strategy to combat
obesity would be inappropriate at this early stage of our understanding about
the underlying mechanisms that link alcohol use with weight control," write
Arif and colleagues.
"Furthermore," they continue, "it should be noted that the data
give no evidence to advise nondrinkers to start drinking alcohol just for
reducing body weight.
"However, the evidence reported here argues against a strategy of
promoting complete abstention at least among those who regularly consume
alcohol," Arif's team writes.
They call for studies to track drinkers' weight over time to see if alcohol
really protects against obesity.