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Drinking alcohol has become more and more of a double-edged sword.
Just ten drinks per week — that’s two drinks after work each day — can shorten your life expectancy by two full years.
On the other hand, the antioxidants in red wine can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and beer has been shown to have value for improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Recently, one researcher set out to start untangling these inconsistencies — and it may come down to one thing that’s a contributing factor to most diseases…
Do different drinks affect obesity differently?
Brittany Larsen, a student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Iowa State University, noticed how often the public hears conflicting information about the potential risks and benefits of alcohol.
She attributed this inconsistency to the fact that a lot of research focuses on “alcohol” as a single entity, rather than separately measuring the effects of beer, cider, red wine, white wine, champagne and whiskey.
Her focus in this study was on how drinking relates to obesity.
“Aging is often accompanied by an increase in the problematic fat that can lead to heightened cardiovascular disease risk,” she says.
Higher levels of body fat are also linked to different types of cancer and a higher risk of death.
“Considering these trends, it is vital for researchers like us to examine all the potential contributors to weight gain so that we can determine how to combat the problem.”
How the research was done
To start and tease out the differences among different alcoholic drinks as they relate to obesity, Larsen and her colleagues turned to the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database frequently used by health researchers.
They used a questionnaire to collect data from 1,869 adults ages 40 to 79 on their alcohol consumption, dietary habits, and lifestyle factors. They also recorded height and weight and took blood samples from each participant.
In addition, they measured body composition using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA.
Normally used to measure bone density in the hips and lower spine, research has shown that DEXA is a highly accurate method of determining body composition, and for tracking changes in muscle and fat over time.
Finally, Larsen put it all together, using a statistical program to examine relationships between various types of alcoholic beverages and body composition.
Here’s what they found…
Your drink of choice WILL affect your health outcome
Not surprisingly, drinking beer (and whiskey) was linked to higher levels of visceral fat, that infamous “beer belly” that’s associated with a higher risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
In contrast, drinking wine showed no such association. In fact, the researchers found that drinking red wine was linked to having lower levels of visceral fat.
There was one nice surprise for older adults in this research.
Remember that I mentioned that DEXA is used to measure bone density?
Well, this research showed that adults who drink white wine in moderation had higher bone mineral density.
What does this mean?
Larsen hopes that other researchers will follow in her footsteps and probe the different health effects of different alcoholic drinks.
In the meantime, the information she presents is enough to inform your choices.
The most important thing, I think, is to stick with moderation as the key.
In other words, because white wine was associated with stronger bones here, doesn’t mean you should go out and drink white wine like water. But it is nice to know that the glass you enjoy after work could be having some beneficial effects.
And, if you’re a beer drinker, you probably already know that overdoing it will put the weight on — fast.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Beer, wine, and spirits differentially influence body composition in older white adults–a United Kingdom Biobank study — Obesity Science and Practice
DXA/DEXA beats BMI: Using an X-ray Exam to Measure Body Composition & Fat Loss — University of California San Francisco