Here’s a surprise: Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women who have a drink or two a day are 30% less likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t.
The study, published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, looks at data gathered over 13 years from 19,220 women who are participating in the long-running Women’s Health Study. The positive effects held true for wine, beer and hard alcohol, but the strongest association was found with red wine.
Anyone who has ever been on a weight-loss plan was certainly not expecting this news. Usually any alcohol, with its high sugar content and low nutritional value, is discouraged on a diet. Those 125 calories for a glass of wine or 120-150 for a 12-ounce beer are often called “empty calories” – or worse, if they entice the person to eat more snacks.
The research should not translate into advice for women, Dr. James C. Garbutt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, told the Los Angeles Times.
"If the message is that by drinking some alcohol you're going to lose weight, that's a potentially complicated and dangerous message," he said.
But there’s no denying the effect. From CNN Health:
“The risk of becoming overweight or obese falls as alcohol consumption rises, even
when factors such as smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption, and physical activity are taken into account, the study found.
“Women who consumed between 1.5 and 3 drinks daily had a 27 percent and 61 percent lower risk of becoming overweight or obese, respectively, than women who didn't drink at all, according to the study.”
And the reason?
"Women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol tend to eat less food, particularly carbohydrates," cardiologist Lu Wang, lead researcher on the study told USA Today.
But she echoes the word of caution: "Women still need to eat healthy and exercise regularly for optimal health, she says." Excessive alcohol consumption can be associated with serious medical and psychosocial problems.
More from CNN Health:
In addition to potentially causing problems at work and with relationships, daily alcohol consumption has a number of health risks, including a small increase in the risk of breast cancer.
Experts recommend that women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day, and that men limit themselves to two.
And if you don't drink, experts say, these findings shouldn't inspire you to start hitting the bottle.
"It won't change recommendations for my patients, I can say that for certain," says Scott Kahan, M.D., the co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program, in Washington, D.C. "If you don't drink, there's no reason to start."
But, he adds, "I think [the study] suggests that there's no need to quit or avoid alcohol if it's something you enjoy."
And Kahan says that the findings challenge the conventional wisdom about calories from alcohol. "The way that the body handles those calories very possibly might be very different from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins," he says. "It makes you wonder if we've been thinking about alcohol as a nutrient a little bit incorrectly."
The Los Angeles Times story:
The USA Today story:
The CNN Health story: