Weight gain as a result of drinking alcohol occurs mainly among heavy drinkers. In addition, different types of alcohol affect body weight differently. This article discusses the effects of alcohol on body weight. The caloric content of one gram of alcohol is 7.1 kcal, so alcohol consumption may lead to weight gain. Obesity can result, in part, due to the effects alcohol consumption has on the body.
- Heavy drinking, regardless of the type of drink, leads to weight gain.
- Men and heavy drinkers are more likely to gain weight, compared to women.
- Alcohol is linked to weight gain, in all age groups.
- Alcohol causes weight gain due to excess consumption of calories, increasing appetite, increasing impulsivity and fat accumulation in your body.
- Except for maybe red wine, almost all alcoholic beverages lead to weight gain.
The basics – Calories!
An average wine drinker consumes two thousand extra calories from alcohol alone every month. This consumption adds up to 44,200 extra calories per year, which equals to eating 221 sweet pastries. But the question is: Are calories from alcohol identical to calories from other food sources?
Simply put, alcohol is a drink packed with calories, and low in nutritional values. For this reason, the calories in alcoholic beverages are labeled “empty calories”, just like most fast-foods for example.
The causes of weight gain as a result of drinking alcohol
There are a number of reasons that explain the relationship between the two:
Calories are dense – one gram of alcohol contains twice as many calories per gram of carbohydrates or protein.
The liver is particularly sensitive to ethanol, derived from alcohol – it turns almost the whole drink into a bomb of calories.
The body stops using fats and carbohydrates as sources of energy – with so much energy coming so easily from alcohol, which leads to fats to being stored in the body.
Excess energy from alcohol – causes the body to convert the extra energy into the synthesis of bodily storage compounds such as fats.
So drinking alcohol leads to weight gain, at least in theory. Now you have to understand what science says about weight gain.
What does science say about alcohol and weight gain?
Many studies support the fact that alcohol leads to excess weight. But one study is particularly noteworthy. Researchers from Spain have conducted a large review of data from different studies to link alcohol intake to body weight. They studied almost all the major studies on alcohol and weight gain between 1984 and 2010.
They were able to isolate 31 studies based on their relevance and other criteria. It can be concluded from the data that alcohol consumption leads to weight gain.
The way alcohol leads to weight gain
There are several factors to consider:
Alcohol consumption leads to the disruption of caloric intake
Here we have to go back to basics – calories. Body weight is the product of the calories we consume, and calories we burn. So that ultimately the balance comes from calories consumed and calories burned. But not all calories are equal. Fibers, for example, are healthier than alcohol and there is a difference in how the body treats calories coming from fibers.
The body has a limited ability to absorb fiber, so it absorbs a very small number of calories from it, and gets rid of the rest. But the calories from alcohol are very different. Alcohol has no complicated structure. It is easily absorbed from the stomach and easily disintegrates into energy through the liver.
Alcohol increases your appetite
Another important reason why alcohol leads to weight gain. Researchers from the University of Liverpool have tested the effects of alcohol. The study participants received three meals a day and then half an hour before lunch, they received an alcoholic drink varying in strength.
The volunteers received a standard breakfast. They were given different types of alcoholic beverages or non-alcoholic beverages, half an hour before a buffet lunch. The researchers found that people who drank alcohol consumed, on average, thirty percent more calories at lunch.
But there is more – alcohol is addictive. It may not significantly affect the body if consumed in moderation, but some regular drinkers become heavy drinkers with time. When you add alcohol to your diet, you consume many extra calories daily, leading to even more weight gain.
The effects of alcohol on the hunger hormones – Leptin is one of the major regulators of appetite that helps to reduce hunger. Results of a Swedish study found that Leptin decreased by almost 50 percent after alcohol consumption.
Alcohol leads to impulsive eating of snacks
Drinking alcohol triggers impulsive eating behavior. These behaviors include the excessive eating of snacks. Researchers at the University of Liverpool, conducted a study through observing the behavior among drinkers with regards to snacking. The researchers found that snacking was significantly higher among drinkers. In addition, study participants ate more healthy snacks when drinking outside and not at home.
There is a significant connection between drinking alcohol and Binging. In a study in Canada, researchers observed the eating patterns in women who drank alcohol regularly. They identified 71% of the participants as Bing eaters.
Alcohol alters fat distribution in the body
Alcohol reduces fat breakdown and stimulates synthesis. Alcohol consumption increases the percentage of subcutaneous tissue (used for fat storage) in the body, among men and women. This is mainly fat accumulating in the abdominal area.
Alcohol also increases chest size in women and men, mainly because of its ability to increase the levels of the female hormone estrogen, which increases by 20% after consuming a single alcoholic drink.
So, next time someone tells you you don’t have to drink to enjoy the party, trust them and save yourself the extra calories.