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Chronic Monday: Is the Key to Women’s Weight and Health a Drink (or Three) Away?

By | Chronic Disease | 

Women everywhere are confused – one day having an alcoholic beverage is beneficial to our health (and some speculate our sanity) and the next day it’s not.  Even health media like Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times is pointing out the scientific discrepancies.  It’s the same thing with a number of other foods women love and would gladly consume in excess on a regular basis if given a medically-sound reason – including chocolate, ice cream, coffee and anything with sugar in it. chronic-disease

So, when a study published in early March in the Archives of Internal Medicine by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston demonstrated that women who drink moderately are less likely to gain weight over time than those who didn’t, it definitely got a lot of attention.  The research showed that after evaluating more than 19,000 women over a 13 year period, those women who had more than two drinks daily (considered the highest consumption level) were 30% less likely to be overweight and nearly 70% less likely to be obese than their counterparts who drank less.  This would seem that women should adopt more “liquids” as part of their diet to maintain a healthy weight, right?

Could this be the magic bullet to help us from putting on extra pounds, which we all know leads to a number of coexisting chronic health problems, like heart disease, cancer and of course, obesity?

There are a couple of theories that researchers have on why this specific research turned out the way it did.  First, did women who drink more consume fewer calories through food?  The data showed that women who drank alcohol as part of the study reported fewer calories from food sources, particularly carbohydrates, so this could be one answer for the results.   However, researchers theorize that it’s also possible that women metabolize alcohol differently than men, ultimately using a more inefficient process that requires us to burn more calories.  Whatever the reason, many women have welcomed this study as a little piece of good news.

But, not so fast.  As disappointing as it may be, alcohol consumption also has it downsides, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the side effects can include an increased risk for chronic disease including cancer, liver disease and cardiovascular problems.  So, the advice from doctors and experts following this published research has been the overwhelmingly same message – everything in moderation.  A little alcohol can be good for the heart and maybe even help women stay thinner, but too much of anything is bad.  It seems like just when we catch a break and doctors are telling us to do more of something that we love (in this case enjoy more alcohol on a daily basis), they burst our bubble.

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