If you enjoy a glass of wine at night or order a cocktail when eating out, you may want to know if alcohol is linked to weight gain? New research—as well as several previously-published reports—say it is.
Several studies show that drinking alcohol stimulates appetite and increased desire for high-calorie treats. In fact, one study reported that drinking alcohol was the worst diet wrecker, of all behaviors linked to weight gain.
Now, a new study reported in the journal Obesity expands on previous studies and highlights how alcohol triggers specific areas of the brain that make us more prone to responding to external food cues, like the smell of fresh-baked bread or cookies or viewing mouth-watering desserts on Pinterest.
The study included 35 normal-weight women who received alcohol via an IV to test the direct effect of alcohol on the brain rather than via the GI tract. (The subjects also received, on another day, an IV of saline.) After receiving the alcohol or saline, the women were exposed to food and non-food aromas and MRI scans were taken to evaluate changes in brain activity. After imaging, participants were provided a lunch and the calories consumed were measured.
Results? After alcohol, subjects ate 7% more calories at lunch, compared to when they received a placebo IV of saline. However, some women ate less after receiving alcohol but the researchers did find that when given alcohol, the hypothalamus was more active. The hypothalamus is involved in regulating hunger appetite and metabolism.
For the upcoming holiday weekend, keep these five facts about alcohol in mind:
- Alcohol is empty calories and provides no nutritional value
- Alcohol will boost your desire for high-calorie foods
- Alcohol will chip away at your willpower, making it even harder to stick with your resolve to eat healthy
- Alcohol is high in calories and often, added sugar: Typical summertime cocktails can pack in 300 or more calories.
- Alcohol disrupts deep sleep, so you’ll fee less rested in the a.m., which also boosts appetite and desire for high-calorie foods.