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Women who drink more gain less weight


A study released this afternoon shows that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol gain less weight than abstainers do.

Research published in today's Archives of Internal Medicine examined nearly 13 years' data from the Women's Health Study for 19,220 U.S. women aged 39 and older. All the women initially were at normal, healthy weights, with body mass indexes between 18.5 and 25.

The authors, led by Lu Wang of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, found that women who drank no alcohol at all gained the most weight over those 13 years, while women who drank the most -- 15 to 30 grams of alcohol, or one to two drinks, per day -- gained the least. The authors note that only 3 percent of the women drank heavily (consuming 30 grams or more of alcohol, or 2-3 drinks, per day), so the extended effects of such heavy consumption on weight couldn't be calculated.

The association held after accounting for such confounding factors as smoking, race and age. Nor did the type of alcohol consumed seem to matter much.

At about 7 calories per gram, the authors note, alcohol would appear to be a major contributor to overweight and obesity. But, they say, earlier research has found that women (unlike men, who tend to add alcohol on top of their regular diets) tend to displace other calorie sources with alcohol. That appeared to hold true in this sample, they note.

The women in this study who drank had other habits that might contribute to obesity, such as low intake of high-fiber foods, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, and high intake of red meat and high-fat dairy. But the moderate drinkers were more physically active than the others. They also were more likely to smoke. Both of those factors were among the potentially confounding factors for which adjustments were made.

The authors caution that this study doesn't show a cause-and-effect relationship between drinking and reduced risk of weight gain. They also note that alcohol consumption has all kinds of implications beyond its potential effect on one's weight. So, ladies, don't take this news as license to become a lush. But if you, like me, like a drink now and then, you might not have to worry too much about alcohol's contribution to your, er, bottom line.

Follow the Post's Local Living writers, including Jennifer, at @wposthome/local-living. And keep track of my "Me Minus 10" effort to lose 10 pounds before I turn 50 at

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 8, 2010; 3:16 PM ET
Categories:  Alcohol and Drugs , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Did any of the women in the study get pregnant? That would explain weight gain coupled with teetotalling.

Posted by: jackaroe | March 8, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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