Whether you’re a riesling kind of person or prefer a pinot noir with your meals, if you love wining and dining, then this article is for you.
A typical glass of sauvignon blanc comes with 120 calories. White wine tends to be lower in calories compared to reds, while sweeter champagnes can have up to 175 calories. But if you’ve been following our blog, then you’ll know that these numbers don’t matter at all since we advise against calorie counting.
However, we do appreciate that sipping on a glass of wine at dinner can bump up the overall amount of calories consumed. When this is repeated, with possibly multiple glasses per night, several days a week, these extra calories can potentially cause weight gain and obesity.
But wait, before we wine about this and think we’re making some pour decisions, let’s look at the literature to see what it has to say about wine and our waist lines.
Some Say Yes…
Several studies have documented a positive relationship between consuming alcohol and weight gain. Those who consumed alcohol were more likely to be overweight or obese. Researchers even looked into where all these extra calories were going and suggest that abdominal obesity is associated with a pint of beer or more per day.
However, these studies were short-term experimental trials that looked at a group of people at a snapshot in time. We can’t say for certain whether people were already overweight and started to drink wine with their dinners or the other way around. Some populations were also associated with poorer dietary choices and minimal physical activity, so these factors could have contributed too.
But Others Say No
When we looked at longer term studies that followed up their participants, the results were contradictory.
People who normally didn’t drink alcohol were randomised to drink a glass of red wine, white wine or mineral water with their dinner for 2 years. This level of alcohol consumption was classified as moderate. When the researchers measured their weight and waist circumference, there was no significant differences between the three groups. A subtle but important detail to note though, is that the participants ate a healthy diet throughout.
The latest review suggests that light-to-moderate alcohol intake is not associated with weight gain. However, heavy drinking (2-3 drinks per day) may be a risk factor for obesity.
What if Wine is Not My Thing?
If you prefer a beer with your meal then make sure it’s a schooner or less.
A systematic review and meta-analysis found that beer intake at moderate levels (of less than 500mL per day) is not significantly associated with general or abdominal obesity. However, drinking more than 500mL, like a pint, may be associated with such.
It’s even better if you ditch the ethanol in the beer too. When researchers compared alcoholic beer with non-alcoholic beer, they recorded greater weight gain for those who drank the former. But interestingly, a similar study was compared wine and grape juice; there was no significant difference in weight gain between the two.
The results from this 6-year follow-up study suggests that drinking wine may be better than beer or spirits. Participants who drank more than 7 standard drinks of beer or spirits per week were associated with a higher risk of weight gain. However, the group who drank wine did not have any increased risk.
As medical professionals, we have seen the devastating health impacts alcohol can have on an individual. Not to mention the other negative consequences on the economy, productivity and social aspects of the local and wider community.
From a health standpoint, there is no recommended safe drinking level.
At Embody Nourish, we encourage people to make health-positive choices while having a balanced lifestyle. We understand that drinking has become a social norm so shedding light on this topic was quite interesting.
Obesity is a complex and multi-factorial issue. Assessing the independent effect of alcohol on weight gain is difficult as shown by the multitude of conflicting studies. It would suggest that alcohol consumption has probably contributed to some individuals’ weight gain. However, the evidence to provide a strong link between the two is insufficient. Taking into consideration for a person’s desire to drink, the studies allude to moderate intake combined with healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid weight gain.
- Bendsen NT, Christensen R, Bartels EM, et al. Is beer consumption related to measures of abdominal and general obesity? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2013;71(2):67-87. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23356635/
- Flechtner-Mors M, Biesalski HK, Jenkinson CP, Adler G, Ditschuneit HH. Effects of moderate consumption of white wine on weight loss in overweight and obese subjects. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004;28(11):1420-1426. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15356671/
- Gepner Y, Golan R, Harman-Boehm I, et al. Effects of Initiating Moderate Alcohol Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-Year Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2015;163(8):569-579. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26458258/
- Lourenço S, Oliveira A, Lopes C. The effect of current and lifetime alcohol consumption on overall and central obesity. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012;66(7):813-818. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22378229/
- Sayon-Orea C, Bes-Rastrollo M, Nuñez-Cordoba JM, Basterra-Gortari FJ, Beunza JJ, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Type of alcoholic beverage and incidence of overweight/obesity in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN project. Nutrition. 2011;27(7-8):802-808. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21146360/
- Sayon-Orea C, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Bes-Rastrollo M. Alcohol consumption and body weight: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2011;69(8):419-431. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21790610/
- Sonko BJ, Prentice AM, Murgatroyd PR, Goldberg GR, van de Ven ML, Coward WA. Effect of alcohol on postmeal fat storage. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59(3):619-625. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8116538/
- Traversy G, Chaput JP. Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update. Curr Obes Rep. 2015;4(1):122-130. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25741455/