By Lori Okami
If you are one of those who have found it difficult to get rid of that gut and are also clinging to the claim that alcohol is good for you in moderation (as you sip at a few margaritas), maybe it’s time to consider whether your alcohol consumption might just be a contributing factor to your challenges in cutting down your midriff.
While studies have shown that there are health benefits to regular, moderate alcohol consumption (particularly red wine) on heart disease, there’s more to it when looking at the effect on belly fat. In a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, they found that the way people drink is as important as the amount and type of alcohol consumed.
Basically, the study showed that small amounts of alcohol consumed on a regular basis were associated with the smallest abdominal heights, while participants who drank sporadically but intensely (having more than 3-4 drinks per drinking occasion) had the highest abdominal height measures.
- In both men and women, the more drinks per drinking day, the higher the abdominal measurement.
- Men and women who drank infrequently but heavily had more abdominal fat than people who consumed the same amount but drank regularly.
- The type of alcohol consumed appeared to contribute differently to the accumulation of abdominal fat. Wine drinkers showed the lowest abdominal height, while liquor drinkers had the highest.
These results do not suggest that persons with abdominal fat should start drinking small amounts regularly—no, no, no. There are other factors to consider:
- The most obvious reason that alcohol contributes to belly fat, as well as other fat, is that it contains a fair amount of calories. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, more than carbohydrates and protein, yet providing none of the nutritional value.
- The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol and fat. BUT, perhaps because of alcohol's toxicity, the liver prioritizes alcohol first—meaning that it will process alcohol when it could be metabolizing fat instead.
- Studies also suggest that alcohol consumption increases visceral adipose tissue--fat around the internal organs.
- Alcohol suppresses testosterone production (the primary metabolic hormone), not just while intoxicated but for up to 24 hours following consumption. So not only does alcohol delay your liver's ability to break down fat, it also obstructs your body's access to the hormones it needs to help you break down fat.
- Alcohol also increases appetite. A Denmark study found that men consuming alcohol with a meal ate more than men who were not drinking.
- If you're going to drink, red wine is your best choice. Beer is your worst choice, partly because the hops used to make it encourage estrogen production to the detriment of testosterone.
*** MAHALO to the more than 800 who have completed the Hawaii Health Survey. For those who haven’t, I invite you to participate and join in on the effort to Build a Healthy Hawaii. Please visit my website www.lifefitnet.com. It is a short 15-question online survey