Does wine make you fat? Before I delve into the studies I can tell you this much, I drink wine nightly (but I drink in moderation—never more than 1 1/2 to 2 glasses) and I’ve been doing this now for a good eight or nine years. With the exception of my pregnancy my waistline has been the same since it was in my college days (I’m now 34 years old). When I was 20 years old I really didn’t drink much at all (but I ate terribly.) I started drinking wine when I started dating my husband, Andy (he took some big fancy wine course at Cornell when he was in college and has been a “wino” ever since!).
When Andy was living in Philly doing his surgical residency I was still living in Florida but I’d fly up to see him once a month and our big thing would be to go to a really nice restaurant (our favorite place was Striped Bass on Walnut Street!); Andy would always make this elaborate production ordering the wine and I’d end up having a glass or two…not because I even really liked the wine, but mostly because he got so excited about it! But somewhere along the line I began to really like the taste of it and I started getting into the swing of selecting the wine with Andy when we’d go out to eat. After we got married we soon started buying wine for the house…drinking it only on weekends at first and then it became an every night thing. And no, we don’t get wasted with dinner; we just like to relax with a good glass of wine. For the record, my husband also has a heart-healthy waistline measurement—he is almost 37 years old and his waistline is still the same 32 inches it was in his college days. I can’t give our nightly wine ritual credit for keeping the inches off (I attribute “clean eating” to weight management more than anything else) but what I can say is that we have wine on a nightly basis in addition to following an otherwise very healthy lifestyle and we’ve both managed to not get fat…not so far anyway!
Research, Wine and Weight Gain
So that’s our story. But, what does the science show? Actually, the science is right in line with our personal experience. My husband and I have believed for years that wine calories are not equal to food calories. In fact, in our first book, The Gold Coast Cure (HCI Books, 2005) we said “the calories in alcohol do not appear to be metabolized in the same manner as the calories from carbohydrates, fats and protein. There is no scientific rationale to abstain from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol in an effort to maintain a healthy waistline.” We based this on studies published in medical journals. For example, in April 1997, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported on a twelve-week crossover study. Fourteen men were given two glasses of wine to drink every day for six weeks, and then they were asked to abstain for six weeks. The men did not gain weight while they were drinking nor did they lose weight when they stopped (1). Two glasses of wine contain about 200 calories. Over a six-week period these men should have gained about 2 1/2 pounds, yet they didn’t gain an ounce. Researchers theorize the alcohol may enter a futile cycle where it is not metabolized in the same way as carbohydrates, fat or protein.
Does Avoiding Wine Make You Thinner? Not Necessarily…
Another study showed that women who routinely drank moderate amounts of alcohol, totaling about one drink per day, carried almost 10 pounds less body fat than women who did not drink at all (2). Prior to this, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control showed that, over a ten year period, drinking alcohol seemed to have very little effect on body weight. However, in this study, drinkers tended to gain less weight when compared with people who abstained from alcohol (3.) In a similar ten-year study, drinkers actually displayed a slight tendency to lose weight (4.)
And now, as I just read yesterday on CNN.com, R. Curtis Ellison, M.D., the director of the Institute on Lifestyle and Health and the Boston University School of Medicine, says a recent study is the strongest evidence to date that calories from food and booze are not created equal. The recent study Dr. Ellison is referring to is the one published in the March 8, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine involving 19,220 healthy, normal-weight women done at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Ellison was quoted as saying, “Many other studies that are not nearly as well done as this suggest that calories from alcohol are metabolized differently. The alcohol calories probably don’t count as much as the calories from a Hershey’s Bar.” I’ll drink (just 1 glass) to that!
Weight Loss Surgeon Weighs In
My husband is now a surgeon specializing in bariatric (weight loss) surgery. So, after coming across the CNN article yesterday I did a quickie Q & A with him when he got home from work. Firs thing I wanted to know was whether most of his bariatric patients drink wine or not. He said the majority of his patients do not drink alcohol at all—but those that do drink tend to drink excessive quantities. He then added that the beverage his patients drink most of is soda (which we both feel is about the absolute worst thing you can drink. Period.)
He said he strongly discourages any calorie-containing beverage (including 100% juice) for his patients after they have had bariatric surgery but that he still allows them to drink 1 or 2 glasses of wine if they wish. He doesn’t encourage wine consumption for weight loss, but he doesn’t discourage it either. And, for the record, he recommends wine over all other alcoholic beverages. This is because in comparison to hard liquor and beer, wine contains antioxidants and is very low in sugar (hard liquor is low in sugar but contains no antioxidants; beer contains antioxidants yet most varieties also contain a good deal of empty-calorie sugar.) Note: low-carb beers do contain significantly less sugar than regular beer, but they also contain significantly less antioxidants.
If you Don’t Drink Should You Start?
No. I’m not saying you should start drinking wine if you don’t want to or don’t like the taste. And, I’m certainly not saying wine should be your new weight loss weapon of choice either. In fact, if you have a family history of alcoholism or you’ve personally had a problem with alcohol in the past you should steer clear. What I am saying is that if you enjoy wine and it helps you relax (something I have a HARD TIME doing!) then you shouldn’t avoid wine because you think it will make you fat. It won’t. And, if you are one of those point and calorie-counting Weight Watcher’s who goes out to dinner and avoids wine to “save calories” for the chocolate cheesecake finale you should probably think twice about that choice next time you go out. Personally, from a weight loss standpoint, I think you should choose the wine over the cheesecake. I’d worry more about the waistline damage from the cheesecake instead of how many calories in a glass of wine! But that’s just me…
On another day I’ll write about other documented health benefits of wine (such as decreased risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.) As for today…I’m looking forward to sharing a bottle of 2007 Francois Chidaine Montlouis Les Tuffeaux with my hubby tonight (thanks to this week’s recommendation by Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibraryTv.com).
We purchase much of our wine online and one great company to check out is Wine.com. They offer a very large selection and if you’re a Clean Cuisine reader you may be interested in their earth-friendly offerings. They also have a free shipping membership program that will pay off if you order regularly. Click on the image ad below to browse wine.com’s inventory. Need a suggestion, try out Benziger Chardonnay, Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon, or Conundrum White Blend for a unique flavor change of pace.
Finally, for those of you who cannot tolerate wine or prefer not to imbibe learn more about an alcohol-free alternative source of resveratrol called Vivix at the bottom of my other wine posting by clicking HERE.
- Cordain, L, et al. “Influence of moderate daily wine consumption upon body weight regulation and metabolism in healthy free-living males.” J Am Coll Nutr. 1997, Apr; 16(2); 134-9.
- Greenfield, JR, et al. “Moderate alcohol consumption, dietary fat composition, and abdominal obesity in women; evidence for gene-environment interaction.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;88(11):5381-6.
- Liu S, et al. “A prospective study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults.” Am J Epidemiol. 1994 Nov. 15;140(10):912-20.
- Kahn HS, et al. “Stable behaviors associated with adults’ 10-year change in body mass index and likelihood of gain at the waist.” Am J Public Health. 1997 May;87(5):747-54.