The Blog for Women Who Brew Beer

The Skinny on Beer

Posted by Maggie on May 18, 2010

A recent study found that women who are moderate drinkers are less likely to gain weight, or tend to gain less weight, than women who don’t drink.  This is music to the ears for those of us who love a beer with dinner.  I have edited the article a bit due to some annoying language.

Here is an article from on this study.  The URL is:

Can a beer a day help [you stay slim]?

Bucks County Courier Times

Local dieticians say a new study suggesting moderate alcohol consumption may help some women control their weight is interesting, but nothing to toast about.

Could it be true that a glass of wine a day can keep the pounds away? Don’t break out the champagne glasses yet, [folks].

While a new study suggests one or two alcoholic drinks a day can prevent weight gain in middle-age women at a normal weight, local dieticians are skeptical, saying the large, long-term study isn’t based on scientific research and the results send the wrong message.

Still, the report in a new issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association Journal, has captured the attention of all American adults, more than half of whom drink alcoholic beverages, according to the study researchers.

The study found that normal-weight women who drank 5 to 30 grams of alcohol daily (the equivalent of .17 to 1 ounce) gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese than women who shunned alcohol or drank too much.

If you were wondering, a 12-ounce regular beer contains about 13.9 grams of alcohol (and 153 calories), 5 ounces of white or red wine contain about 16 grams and 15 grams of alcohol, respectively (and about 120 calories), and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor has about 14 grams of alcohol (and 97 calories).

Alcohol is relatively high in calories, containing about 7 calories per gram, which multiplied by 28 grams per ounce works out to 196 calories, the study found. But available scientific research has not consistently provided evidence that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for obesity.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed more than 19,000 women ages 39 and older with an initial body mass index in the healthy weight range to study the effects of alcohol consumption on weight gain. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md

Participants were asked to report how many alcoholic beverages they typically drank daily. Researchers also took into account other lifestyle factors such as non-alcohol caloric intake and physical activity.

Over an average of 13 years of follow-up, the women on average gained weight progressively, but the women who drank no alcohol gained the most weight with weight gain decreasing as alcohol intake increased. Women who drank between 15 to 30 grams of alcohol daily had the lowest risk of becoming overweight or obese, which was almost 30 percent lower than that of non-drinkers. Average weight gain was about 8 pounds for those who didn’t drink compared with about 3.5 pounds for moderate drinkers.

The exception was among more heavy drinkers. The risk of weight gain did not drop further once women drank 40 grams of alcohol per day – about three beers – or more.

Researchers found that one possible reason that women who drank alcohol moderately had little weight gain is that they also tended to eat fewer calories than the nondrinkers.

The American Dietetic Association recommends women limit their alcoholic beverages to one drink a day, said Brian Ligi, a registered dietician at Abington Memorial Hospital.

More than one alcoholic drink a day carries other serious risks including digestive tract cancer and liver disease, he added. He also cited a previous JAMA study found a woman’s risk for breast cancer rises with the amount of alcoholic beverages that she drinks.

“I feel it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from a study like this (weight-related one),” Ligi added

The findings are likely confusing to women who continually hear conflicting messages about the health benefits and risks of alcohol. Other research suggests alcohol metabolism is more efficient among people who are already overweight, so heavier women may gain more weight from alcohol than thinner women.

Another problem with the study is its reliance on the women reporting their weight and alcohol consumption on the initial questionnaire as well as the eight follow-ups, which means the study doesn’t hold scientific water to Laura Woodhead, a registered dietician at Holy Redeemer Health System.

“You’d need more information to make a real claim on this,” she said.

Woodhead also worries about the message that studies like this send, especially when they aren’t framed within a context.

“A lot of outpatients come in asking me these exact same questions or they say, ‘Dr. Oz says this’ ” she said.


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