One of the many arguments used to try and persuade us to drink less is that the calorific content of alcohol contributes to obesity. For example, this article from the UK NHS Choices website argues, among many other things:
Regularly drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline as well as cause less obvious but more serious health problems. Many women don’t realise that two large glasses of white wine not only puts them over the recommended daily limit for regular alcohol consumption, but also provides them with nearly 20% of their recommended daily calorie intake, at approximately 370kcal in total.
Most people would baulk at consuming a full glass of single cream, but wouldn’t think twice about the calorie content of a couple of pints. But the calorie content is similar and, over time, excess alcohol intake can easily contribute to gaining weight.
Wine, beer, cider, spirits and all our favourite drinks are made from natural starch and sugar. Fermentation, and distillation for certain drinks, is used to produce the alcohol content. This helps explain why alcohol contains lots of calories – seven calories a gram in fact, almost as many as a gram of fat. And, of course, additional calories can be present in added mixer drinks.
But a new book argues that this is just wrong empirically.
Here are a some of the claims as summarised in an Australian news article (I'm sure some will say they would say that):
A six-year study of 43,500 people by the University of Denmark. Key findings: teetotallers and infrequent drinkers ended up with the biggest waistlines, daily drinkers had the smallest.
An eight-year study of 49,300 women by University College Medical School, London. Key findings: women who drank below 30 grams a day (around two medium glasses of wine) were up to 24 per cent less likely to put on weight than teetotallers.
A ten-year study of 7,230 people by the U.S. National Center for Disease Control. Key findings: drinkers gained less weight than non-drinkers. Alcohol intake did not increase the risk of obesity.
And a possible explanation is that the metabolic routes for alcohol digestion don't involve the production of glucose (though, obviously, some booze also contains high glycaemic index carbohydrate so will cause peaks in blood sugar).
Is the claim true? Does the alcohol content of drinks make no observed contribution to excess weight?