I will never forget when a friend of mine, then on Weight Watchers, told me she was counting wine as her fruit points. “You know,” she said trying to justify her decision, “wine is made of grapes, so why not?”
In an effort to lose weight, dieters often lower their intake or cut alcoholic drinks from their diet–a glass of wine or a cocktail can carry not just a buzz but also plenty of calories. Recent research suggests, however, that women who consumer moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis are less likely to put on weight than abstainers and are at a decreased risk for obesity.
A study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reported that researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tracked 19,220 American women aged 39 or older who, at the start of the study, fell into the “normal weight” category based on their body mass index. About 60 percent of the women, whose drinking habits were studied over 13 years, were light or regular drinkers, while about 40 percent reported drinking no alcohol.
In an article on the nytimes.com Well blog, Tara Parker-Pope explained that over the course of the study, 41 percent of the women became overweight or obese. “Although alcohol is packed with calories (about 150 in a six-ounce glass of wine), the nondrinkers in the study actually gained more weight over time: nine pounds, on average, compared with an average gain of about three pounds among regular moderate drinkers. The risk of becoming overweight was almost 30 percent lower for women who consumed one or two alcohol beverages a day, compared with nondrinkers,” she writes.
Unfortunately, it seems that every other week there is new and conflicting information about drinking and health, which is undoubtedly confusing for many. Moderate drinking is associated with lowers rates of heart disease, yet it is also shown to increase breast cancer risk.
Based on the study’s results, I wouldn’t suggest women head to the bar thinking they’ll lose weight. As Parker-Pope writes: “Other research shows that once a person is already overweight, her alcohol metabolism is more efficient, and so an overweight woman may gain more weight from alcohol than a lean woman. The data do, however, suggest that for many women facing weight problems, the extra calories are probably not coming from alcoholic beverages.”