New Study About Alcohol & Weight Gain

Alcohol is full of empty calories, which most people know. Beer and frozen mixed drinks are among the worst offenders, with wine another calorie bomb. A new study published in the the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found those who drink heavily when they are younger are more susceptible to obesity when they are older. Researchers looked at data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and found “heavy drinkers,” or those who have four or more drinks on any given day, are at a 41 percent higher risk of becoming overweight than those who drink infrequently.

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The Calories

“It’s important to look at alcohol in terms of calories,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A 12-ounce glass of beer has about 150 calories, while five ounces of wine has about 120 calories. Mixed drinks, such as a seven-ounce rum and Coke, has 155 calories. Those calories add up quickly, especially if you drink regularly.

“Whatever you think you’re having, you probably need to cut that in half,” Stanford says.

Lowered Inhibitions

Alcohol results in lowered inhibitions and sense of awareness, making it easy to mindlessly snack.

“While you may be able to realize you are full and stop after one slice of pizza when you are sober, it’s harder to read those fullness signals when you’ve had a few drinks,”says Alissa Rumsey, R.D. “People often end up eating when they aren’t necessarily hungry.”

Making Smart Decisions

Making smarter decisions about your alcohol consumption is the best way to combat libation-related weight gain. Too much alcohol can turn to fat in your liver and increase your blood cholesterol.

“The extra calories from moderate drinking (one serving of alcohol for women a day or two servings for men per day) can certainly fit into the calorie allotment for weight maintenance and loss,” says Sonya Angelone, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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