By Megan Turvey, ACE CPT
Did you know? Drinking Too Much Stalls Weight Loss.
With the April challenge, many people were put off by the one alcoholic drink per week rule. Before we knock the idea of the challenge completely, let’s take a look at the facts.
Alcoholic drinks can be a significant contributor to your daily calorie intake. A 2012 study found that the average American adult consumes 100 calories a day from beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages. And close to 20 percent of men and 6 percent of women consume more than 300 calories from alcohol daily, the study found. This can add up – for example, consuming 100 calories more than you burn every day may lead to a weight gain of 10 pounds over a year.
On a given day, consumers of alcoholic beverages obtain approximately 16% of their total caloric intake from alcoholic beverages. Adults who consume alcohol get about 16 percent of their daily calories from alcoholic beverages. That’s about the same percentage of extra calories the average child consumes in added sugars. National Center for Health Statistics. On a given day, almost one-third of men and 18% of women aged 20 and over consume alcoholic beverages. On average, men aged 20–39 consume the greatest number of calories—174 per day— from alcoholic beverages compared with other groups. This is greater than the 150 calories in one 12-oz can of soda. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, for most people, no more than 5%–15% of calories should be from solid fats and added sugars at any calorie intake level (2). Because alcohol is considered part of discretionary solid fats and added sugars, the percentage of total calories from alcohol alone is above the recommended 5%–15%. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db110.pdf). There are 7kcal per gram of Alcohol, almost as high as fat, which is 9kcal per gram, and has almost no nutritional value on it’s own (LIVESCIENCE.com).
In addition to the added calories, drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol. So our systems want to get rid of it, and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted (http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.nutr.20.1.395).
The findings from the December 2005 BMC Public Health analysis showed that people who had four or more drinks per day, along with binge drinkers — those who may not drink every day but drink heavily on regular occasions — were significantly more likely to become obese. If weight control is your goal, moderation is key (LIVESTRONG.com).
I’m not here to tell you to quit drinking completely, The research on alcohol’s effect on health suggests both harm and benefits, says Gary Rogg, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor and assistant director of the department of internal medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. “The studies show links to breast cancer [and] links to liver cancer [with alcohol intake],” he says, as well as to other cancers. “If you reduce alcohol intake you can reduce the incidence of head and neck cancer and colorectal cancer. Having said that, there seems to be a benefit with [alcohol] and heart disease.”
“We can confidently say that even moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a modestly higher risk for breast and colorectal cancer,” says Susan Gapstur, PhD, MPH, vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, Atlanta. Her advice: “If you don’t drink there is no reason to start. If you are someone who drinks and you’re a woman, limit drinking to one a day; if a man, to two a day.”If you are at high risk for cancer, she adds, you might consider limiting your alcohol intake to less than that. A family history of some cancers might be reason to cut down or avoid alcohol, Rogg tells patients. “I think [for] people who have a family history of breast cancer or head and neck cancer, it would be much more advisable to abstain,” he says, with the exception of special occasions such as an anniversary party. He makes that recommendation for men and women.
Drinking regularly may contribute to a weight problem or cause one. “Alcohol is an appetite stimulant,” says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital and associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. “You tend to eat more.” Besides being an appetite stimulant, you are just more likely to make poor food choices, seeing that you’re in an altered state.
Some experts say red wine may be better for the heart than white due to antioxidants such as resveratrol found in greater amounts in red wine. Often when sharing wine, we assume we’re drinking less calories but a bottle of 13% ABV wine shared between two could mean you are consuming 340 calories each, that’s the equivalent of a chocolate croissant each. Other recent research hasn’t shown differences, for instance, in red or white wine and the effect on breast cancer risk. Heavy drinking and cirrhosis of the liver are linked, Klatsky points out. Excess alcohol can also cause what Klatsky calls “cirrhosis of the heart,” a type of heart muscle damage. Too much alcohol can trigger high blood pressure and lead to strokes and heart rhythm disturbances, too, he says. In the big picture, the pattern of drinking matters more, Klatsky says, than the type of beverage.
And sensible doesn’t mean “saving up” whatever number of drinks is deemed reasonable per week and drinking them all at once, Gapstur says. Moderate doesn’t mean ”save it up, put it in the bank,” she says, referring to people who don’t drink all week, then have multiple drinks at a single sitting on the weekends. That’s binge drinking, and considered unhealthy.
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