Moderate drinkers show lower obesity risk

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who have an alcoholic
drink or two a day may have a lower risk of becoming obese than
either teetotalers or heavy drinkers, a study published Monday

Researchers found that among more than 8,200 U.S. adults,
those who said they enjoyed a drink every day were 54 percent
less likely than non-drinkers to be obese. Similarly, those who
drank a little more (two drinks per day) or a little less (a
few drinks per week) had a lower risk of obesity than
teetotalers did.

Heavy drinking, on the other hand, raised the odds of
obesity. People who downed four or more drinks a day were 46
percent more likely to be obese than non-drinkers were. Binge
drinkers also showed a greater prevalence of obesity.

The findings are published online in the journal BMC Public

Many studies have linked moderate drinking to better heart
health, but only a few have looked at the relationship between
drinking and body weight.

“It’s a fairly new line of research,” said study co-author
James E. Rohrer, a professor of health services research at the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

It’s possible, he told Reuters Health, that the lower
prevalence of obesity among moderate drinkers helps explain the
lower risk of heart disease.

However, Rohrer stressed that the findings do not imply
that overweight people should take up drinking for the sake of
their waistlines. Alcohol is high in calories, and it’s not yet
clear why moderate drinking is related to lesser odds of

Given that, Rohrer said, drinking should not be viewed as a
“weight-loss strategy.”

The study findings are based on data from a national health
survey of Americans age 18 and older, conducted between 1988
and 1994. The researchers focused their analysis on 8,236
participants who had never smoked.

Overall, half of current drinkers were in the normal weight
range, versus only about one-quarter of non-drinkers. Why this
is so is unclear, but, Rohrer noted, he and colleague Dr. Ahmed
Arif factored in the “usual suspects” in heart disease risk —
such as age, exercise levels, education and income — and
moderate drinking was still related to lower odds of obesity.

Though he cautioned against taking up drinking to trim the
waistline, Rohrer also said the findings suggest that
completely cutting out alcohol might backfire as a weight-loss

SOURCE: BMC Public Health, online December 5, 2005.

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