Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

A drink a day could help keep the pounds away

Is fighting the battle of the bulge driving you to drinking? That may actually help, a new study says.

Women who have between one and two drinks a day may be better at controlling their weight than women who don't consume alcohol, according to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Lu Wang, an associate epidemiologist, and her colleagues looked at 19,220 women age 39 or older with a body mass index in the normal range. At the start of the study, the women reported in a questionnaire how many alcoholic beverages they typically consumed each day. The women were then tracked for nearly 13 years to see what booze did to their beltlines.

Story continues below advertisement

Rates of daily alcohol consumption differed widely among the women in the study, which was published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association.

Slightly more than 38 per cent reported drinking no alcohol, while 32.8 per cent said they drank less than five grams a day, or the equivalent of about one-third of a five-ounce glass of wine. A little more than 20 per cent said they drank the equivalent of a 12-ounce beer or five-ounce glass of wine. Just less than 6 per cent reported having up to two drinks a day while 3 per cent said they had more than two drinks each day.

Bad news for the teetotallers out there: While women on average gained weight progressively over the 13-year follow-up period, women who completely abstained from booze put on the most pounds. Moderate drinkers gained the least weight, regardless of whether their drink of choice was red wine, white wine, beer or spirits.

"An inverse association between alcohol intake and risk of becoming overweight or obese was noted for all four types of alcoholic beverages," the study's authors said in a release.

While 41.3 per cent of women in the study became overweight or obese, those who did not drink at all put on the most weight. Women who drank a little more than one alcoholic beverage each day gained less weight than those who never drink. Women who drank one to two alcoholic beverages a day were least likely to become overweight or obese.

Red wine was found to be the best drink for keeping weight gain to a minimum, while drinking white wine was found to do the least when it comes to keeping pounds off.

But you may want to think twice before getting off the treadmill and dashing out for a bottle of pinot to solve your weight problems. Considering the possible dangers of drinking alcohol, both medical and social, the researchers warned that it should not be used as a way for everyone to fight obesity.

Story continues below advertisement

As well, David Lau, president of Obesity Canada, says the study should not be taken at face value.

"It's more of an association rather than a link to the mechanism whereby alcohol might actually bring about differences in energy balance," he says. "Any data coming from this kind of study will have to be looked at with a grain of salt."

The study's authors acknowledged that the role alcohol plays in helping to control an individual's weight gain is still far from clear.

"Further investigations are warranted to elucidate the role of alcohol intake and alcohol metabolism in energy balance and to identify behavioural, physiological and genetic factors that may modify the alcohol effects," they said.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at