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Drinking alcohol prevents overweight/obesity?

A new study suggests that drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol helps prevent overweight and obesity in women with a normal body mass index.

The study reported in the March 8 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine showed that women who drank 15 to 30 grams of alcohol a day were 30 percent less likely to become overweight or obese than those who did not drank any.

Researchers said in their report that more than half of American adults drink alcoholic beverages. One gram of alcohol produces 7 calories of energy and the researchers wanted to know if drinking alcohol would put drinkers at risk of overweight or obesity.

For the study, Lu Wang, MD, Ph.D. of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and colleagues surveyed at baseline19,000 women aged 39 or older who had a normal BMI ranging from 18.5 to 25 kg/m2 for their drinking habits.

Of the study population, 38.2 percent were classified as non-drinkers, 32.8 drank less than 5 grams, 20.1 percent drank 5 to 15 grams, 5.9 percent drank 15 to 30 grams and 3 percent drank 30 grams per day.

During the 13-year follow-up, 41.3 percent women became overweight or obese of whom 3.8 percent became obese.

Compared to non-drinkers, those who drank less than 40 grams per day of alcohol were less likely to become overweight or obese.

Previous studies were not consistent with regard to the effect of alcohol drinking.

Yeomans M. R. says in an article published in the Jan 22, 2010 issue of Physiology & behavior that in a short term, moderately drinking alcohol may promote weight gain while some epidemiologic data suggest that moderate alcohol intake for a long term may protect against obesity, particularly in women.

Like all epidemiologic studies, the current study does not reveal a causal relationship between drinking alcoholic beverages and lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. This means that drinking alcoholic beverage does not necessarily prevent overweight and obesity.

Drinking alcohol is related to medical and psychosocial problems, the authors cautioned.

The most important threat from drinking alcohol is probably the elevation of breast cancer risk.

In fact, alcoholic beverages are recognized as a human carcinogen by the government agency called the National Toxicology Program.

By David Liu