The Link Between Alcohol and Body Weight
Results from studies on alcohol intake and body weight are inconsistent. To help clarify the association between alcohol use and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and body mass index (BMI), researchers in France analyzed data from 2323 adults, aged 35-60, who had participated in a study of antioxidant supplementation. Analyses were adjusted for age, smoking, physical activity, education, and calorie intake.
- Overall, the relationship between total alcohol consumption and WHR was J-shaped*; those consuming 0-12 g (equal to 1 standard drink or less) per day had a lower ratio than did those who drank more or abstained. The J-shaped relationship was also seen for total alcohol consumption and BMI, but in men only.
- The J-shaped curves were due primarily to wine intake. Those who consumed 0-100 g (up to 8 glasses) of wine per day had a lower WHI than did those who drank more wine or no wine. The J-shaped relationship was also seen for wine intake and BMI, but in men only.
- Spirits consumption increased WHR and BMI in a linear fashion for both men and women.
- Beer consumption did not significantly affect WHR or BMI.
This study showed a J-shaped association between measures of obesity and alcohol, primarily wine, intake. Whether the favorable effects of wine were due to polyphenols or to inadequate control of confounding (e.g., lifestyle of wine drinkers versus beer drinkers) is unclear. Therefore, recommending drinking to prevent obesity would be premature. However, gaining a better understanding of how alcohol consumption relates to obesity—an increasingly prevalent health problem—is very important.R. Curtis Ellison, MD
Richard Saitz, MD, MPH