The Blog for Women Who Brew Beer

Beer and Fat – Spoiler Alert!

Posted by Maggie on July 13, 2010

This will spoil your day!  Now I know why my beer making and drinking hobby has led to tighter pants.

The article is from the New York Time, 1992.  The URL is:

April 9, 1992


BOSTON, April 8— Science has found an explanation for one of the obvious effects of drinking too much: the beer belly.

Swiss researchers report that when people drink alcohol, their bodies burn up fat much more slowly than usual. And any fat that is not burned is stored in the paunch, the thighs or other places where people put on weight.

The study suggests that it is not just the calories in alcohol that make it fattening but the way alcohol throws off the body’s normal disposal of fat in the diet.

“This is one good explanation of why people get fat drinking alcohol,” said Dr. Clifton Bogardus of the National Institutes of Health.

The study was based on an experiment in which people were put on a diet that included about three ounces of pure alcohol a day. This much alcohol, about six shots of whiskey or six beers, reduced their bodies’ burning of fat by about one-third. Stockpiling the Fat

The study, directed by Dr. Paolo M. Suter of the University of Zurich, is being published in Thursday’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The research is one more piece of a larger idea to emerge from recent investigation of how people get fat or stay thin: When people eat extra carbohydrates — sugar or starch — they tend to burn most of it, adding little to their girth. But the body burns extra fat sparingly and instead saves it.

Of course, not everyone who drinks gets a spare tire. It depends on what they eat. Beer and whiskey drinkers who subsist on hamburgers and potato chips will almost certainly put on pounds, while vegetarian wine sippers do not.

The Swiss study found that alcohol suppresses the body’s already-stingy disposal of fat. Just why this happens is unclear. The body may simply prefer to burn alcohol first, or alcohol may have some other effect on metabolic processes in the liver. How to Stay Thin

The finding “points to the fact that energy balance over the long term has a lot more to do with fat balance than anything else we eat,” said Dr. Bogardus. “The main way to stay thin is not to eat fat.”

The study was conducted on eight healthy men during two sessions. In one, alcohol made up 25 percent of their calories, but their total daily calories did not change. In the other, they drank enough alcohol to increase their daily calories by 25 percent.

On both diets, the men’s bodies burned about one-third fewer fat calories when they drank alcohol.

The study reached one modestly positive conclusion: People who substituted alcohol for other food but did not increase their daily calories actually burned up slightly more calories over all than when not drinking. The reason appears to be that alcohol increases metabolism, so that the body will burn up slightly more protein even as it burns less fat.

This finding provides a strategy for drinking without putting on flab.

“If somebody wants to drink socially and avoid gaining weight, he should have a substitution strategy,” said Dr. Suter, substitute fat calories with alcohol,

However, this is hard to do. And Dr. Bogardus noted that people doing so might still put on extra fat, even if they actually weigh less.

“You’d end up with a slightly different body composition,” he said.


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