Because of their high sugar content, alcohols are known to contribute to weight gain. But so far, high alcohol consumption has been associated with both lower and higher body mass index (BMI) and increased and decreased body fat. Alcohol consumption has also been shown to promote fat retention by reducing lipid oxidation and stimulating appetite, and conversely can hinder calorie intake and increase energy expenditure when taken with meals, thereby promoting weight loss. These inconsistencies prompted researchers at Iowa State University to re-examine this link between alcohol and body composition.
Beer makes you fatter than wine
Each type of alcohol has its own nutritional values and alcohol percentage. In order to best assess the influence of alcohol on body composition, it is therefore necessary to consider the consumption habits of the different types of alcohol (beer, spirits and wine) and not to look at alcohol as a whole.
Depending on the preferences of the individual, the long-term effects will vary. For example, greater consumption of beer and spirits has already been correlated with a higher waist-to-hip ratio, while wine showed no effect on this parameter or contributed to its decrease. As a side note, the researchers point out that a distinction must also be made between the different wines, since red wine is known to have a higher polyphenol content than white wine (as natural antioxidants, polyphenols have positive health effects).
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To conduct their study, the researchers selected 1,869 participants (aged 40-80, 59% of whom were men) to take part in the longitudinal study of the UK Biobank – a large-scale biomedical database containing genetic and health information of millions of UK citizens . Between 2007 and 2010, participants self-reported demographic, alcohol/diet and lifestyle factors (physical activity, smoking, etc.) using a touchscreen questionnaire. The alcoholic beverages included in the questionnaire were: beer and cider, red wine, white wine and champagne, and spirits.
Anthropometric data (height, mass, waist circumference, etc.) and serum biomarkers (to measure cholesterol levels, detect inflammation, study vascular integrity and insulin resistance) were also collected. Body composition was obtained by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Researchers specifically looked at visceral fat mass, subcutaneous fat mass, lean muscle mass and bone mineral density.
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White wine is associated with stronger bones
The study participants’ reports of alcohol consumption were recorded as average weekly consumption. Subgroups were formed according to the alcohol each person consumed most; 61% of the participants showed a clear preference for one type of alcohol: men preferred beer (or had no preference), while women preferred wine. Adults with low education and lower socioeconomic status tended to prefer beer/cider and spirits. In the overall sample, participants consumed an average of 9.8 (±7.6) alcoholic beverages per week, according to the researchers in the study.
The results show that beer and spirits consumption is associated with high levels of visceral fat. On the other hand, drinking more red wine was associated with less visceral fat mass — which is explained by a reduction in inflammation and an increase in high-density lipoproteins (the “good” cholesterol). White wine consumption, on the other hand, did not affect visceral fat content; however, it was associated with higher bone density – which could be interesting for older people.
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It should be noted that in France there are 16,000 deaths from cancer and 9,900 deaths from cardiovascular disease related to alcohol consumption every year. Public Health France also reports that 26% of 65-75 year olds consume alcohol on a daily basis. The weekly alcohol consumption of 18-30 year olds is 32.5% in mainland France and varies between 23.2% and 43.5% depending on the region.
According to the World Health Organization, almost 40% of adults worldwide are overweight (47% in France!) and 13% are obese. ” Given these trends, it’s crucial for researchers like us to examine all of the potential contributing factors to weight gain to determine how to combat the problem. says Brittany Larsen, a neuroscientist at Iowa State University and the study’s first author. Many biological and environmental factors contribute to being overweight or obese, and alcohol has long been recognized as one of these factors. This study put that claim into perspective. The researchers now plan to study how diet, including alcohol consumption, might affect brain and cognitive disorders in older people with mild cognitive impairment.