Alcohol and weight
Alcohol and weight is a subject relevant to millions of people who drink alcoholic beverages and who also either want to maintain or to lose body weight. It is uncertain whether alcohol leads to increased body weight. Some studies find an increase in body weight, some studies do not, and some find a small decrease among women who begin consuming alcohol. Some of these studies are very large; one involved nearly 80,000 and another included 140,000 subjects.
These findings are inconclusive because alcohol itself contains 7 kcalories per gram. The reason that alcohol may not increase weight is unclear, but research suggests that alcohol energy is not efficiently used. Alcohol also appears to increase metabolic rate significantly, thus causing more calories to be burned rather than stored in the body as fat (Klesges et al., 1994). Other research has found consumption of sugar to decrease as consumption of alcohol increases.
According to Dr. Kent Bunting, the research results do not necessarily mean that people who wish to lose weight should continue to consume alcohol because consumption is known to have an enhancing effect on appetite. Due to these discrepancies in findings, the relationship between alcohol and weight remains unresolved and requires further research.
Biological and environmental factors are thought to contribute to alcoholism and obesity. The physiologic commonalities between excessive eating and excessive alcohol drinking shed light on intervention strategies, such as pharmaceutical compounds that may help those who suffer from both. Some of the brain signaling proteins that mediate excessive eating and weight gain also mediate uncontrolled alcohol consumption. Some physiological substrates that underlie food intake and alcohol intake have been identified. Melanocortins, a group of signaling proteins, are found to be involved in both excessive food intake and alcohol intake.
Alcohol may contribute to obesity. A study found frequent, light drinkers (three to seven drinking days per week, one drink per drinking day) had lower BMIs than infrequent, but heavier drinkers. Although calories in liquids containing ethanol may fail to trigger the physiologic mechanism that produces the feeling of fullness in the short term, long-term, frequent drinkers may compensate for energy derived from ethanol by eating less.
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