Beer Belly: Drinking Alcohol Leads to More Calories and Weight Gain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Francis Tayie, PhD, MPhil, MS. BSc(HONS) Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Department of Human Environmental Studies Southeast Missouri State University

Dr. Francis Tayie

Francis Tayie, PhD, MPhil, MS. BSc(HONS)
Food, Nutrition and Dietetics
Department of Human Environmental Studies
Southeast Missouri State University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Tayie: This article which is the first report to show a positive link between alcoholic beverage consumption and increased moisture intake, also reports increases in calorie intake above what is supplied by alcohol, as well as increased body weight status. The general view is that alcoholic beverages do not contribute to moisture intake. This view is generally due to the diuretic effect of the ethanol in alcoholic beverages, specifically depression of vasopressin resulting in increased loss of moisture via the kidneys. Nevertheless, much of the water in alcoholic beverages, especially in light drinks such as beer and wine may be retained, as indicated in this study.

Alcoholic calories count!! The view that alcoholic beverages do not contribute calories to the intake of drinkers is largely debatable. Most of the confusion results from the complex metabolism of the ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Metabolism of ethanol utilizes specific metabolic pathways different from the metabolism of macronutrients.
Notably, the

  • 1) alcohol dehydrogenase system,
  • 2) MEOS (microsomal ethanol oxidizing system),
  • and 3) the catalase system.These metabolic systems variably yield some calories but some calories are lost as body heat. It is likely that all of these pathways are not activated simultaneously, and their activities depends on drinking experience. Some calories become available via the alcohol dehydrogenase system, and to a lesser extent via the MEOS. In addition, alcoholic beverage consumption associates with decreased self-restraint, one consequence of which is increased food intake. The promoting effects of alcohol on food intake is multipronged, from social components, to alterations in the effects of appetite regulating neuropeptides.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Tayie: An interesting finding in this study was that drinkers consumed more calories and water above what was supplied by alcoholic beverages. If you are familiar with the myth of “eating greasy” to avoid hangover after heavy drinking, it will seem apparent as to how alcoholic beverage consumption may associate with greater dietary calorie intake. Other reports indicate that alcohol preload before meals results in increased intake. Over time, the increases in calorie intake could engender overweight and obesity, as seen in men in the current study. We do hear axioms such as “drinker’s pot belly” and “beer belly for men” in affluent populations.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Tayie: This article helps to elucidate some of the issues of alcoholism in professional practice pertaining to alcohol related overconsumption and hydration. Drinkers generally consume more calories and water above what is supplied by alcoholic beverages. Body weight and calorie management protocols should re-emphasize recommendations to curtail alcoholic beverage consumption since it promotes overconsumption. Alcoholic beverage consumption may not result in dehydration over time. Depending on the type and experience, it may contribute to moisture intake both directly from the moisture content, and indirectly by enhancing food intake.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Tayie: More studies are needed to elucidate the influences of social and biological factors of alcohol related overconsumption.

Medical Research: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Tayie: In the current study, even though it was observed that alcoholic beverages contribute to moisture intake, they should not be seen as substitutes for plain drinking water and other healthier moisture sources. The long-term deleterious effects of ethanol on the liver, brain and the gastrointestinal tract, and other body tissues could outweigh any perceived benefits. In developing countries and in low socio-economic populations, overdependence on alcoholic beverages leaves drinkers emaciated and malnourished.

Citation:

Tayie FA, Beck GL. Alcoholic Beverage Consumption Contributes to Calories and Moisture Intakes, and Body Weight Status. Nutrition, 29 January, 2016. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2016.01.013

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Francis Tayie, PhD, MPhil, MS. BSc(HONS) (2016). Beer Belly: Drinking Alcohol Leads to More Calories and Weight Gain 

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