Monday, March 08, 2010

Drink up girls: wine isn’t fattening

Hmmm... Self-reports are weak evidence but it's a straw in the wind

WOMEN who like a glass of wine after work can relax: they are likely to gain less weight than those who stick to mineral water. Moderate female drinkers also have a lower risk of obesity than teetotallers, according to new research. The findings, from a study of more than 19,000 women, is at odds with most dietary advice: that alcohol consumption leads to weight gain.

The research suggests that a calorie from alcohol has less impact on weight than a calorie from other foods and that the way the body deals with alcohol is more complex than realised. One theory is that in regular drinkers the liver develops a separate metabolic pathway to break down alcohol, with surplus energy turned mainly into heat, not fat.

In the study, Lu Wang, a medical instructor at Brigham and Women’s hospital, Boston, and colleagues asked 19,220 American women aged 39 or older with a healthy body weight to describe their drinking habits in a questionnaire. About 38% drank no alcohol.

Over the next 13 years the researchers found that all the women tended to gain weight but the non-drinkers gained the most. The women’s overall weight gain decreased as alcohol intake increased.

There was also a difference according to the type of alcohol: red wine was associated with the lowest weight gain; beer and spirits were linked to the highest weight gain.

The report, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, seems to confirm that there is no clear connection between alcohol consumption and weight gain.


White House adviser: 'Heavier people' bad for economy

The U.S. economy would be in better shape if people weren't so heavy, according to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the older brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and a presidential health care adviser in his own right.

"I mean, we're all focused on health care, diabetes and heart disease," he said in a recent appearance on the New York Times "Freakonomics Radio" program. "But, there's all sorts of things like the simple that, you know – heavier people – transportation is more, so there's more spent on gasoline, more on jet fuel."

The White House is aggressively pressing for passage of the Democrats' trillion-dollar health-care reform plan while First Lady Michelle Obama has taken up the issue of childhood obesity.

Jeff Poor of the Business and Media Institute says Ezekiel Emanuel's perspective should be taken seriously. "In all the obesity hand-wringing some bizarre remarks from an important person were overlooked," the institute reported. Emanuel, the report said, confirmed that "this condition has a broader impact on our lives, specifically the economy."

"People have had to change, ah you know, the size of doorways, the size of chairs on airplanes and at sports stadiums," said Ezekiel Emanuel in the Feb. 25 appearance. "So there's a lot of hidden costs as well as to the increasing girth of Americans."

Emanuel, a bioethicist at the American National Institutes of Health, said people's size impacts both energy and infrastructure costs.

At the Freakonomics blog, author Stephen Dubner noted Ezekiel Emanuel advises the White House on health-care reform. He said Emanuel made "a strong case for government intervention in Americans' eating habits. When I asked, however, if it was time for a cheeseburger tax, he made clear his limitations. 'That's a political question,' he said. 'I think you got the wrong Emanuel brother.'"



Anne Marie said...

Re the wine and obesity story. I can't find the original research yet. Have you?

Anonymous said...

1.Wang et al. Alcohol Consumption, Weight Gain, and Risk of Becoming Overweight in Middle-aged and Older Women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010; 170 (5)