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Dieting & Alcohol. A Mixed Drink?

Historically, I’ve never been much of a drinker – but the current political situation may take me right over the edge.  So let’s look at the facts. About alcohol and weight gain, that is. As for the political situation, that makes my hands shake too much to allow me to type.

It is unclear from medical studies whether there’s a clear correlation between drinking alcohol and weight gain, but what is clear is that there are several ways in which alcohol can lead you in the direction of weight gain ( 1):

  • You’re drinking calories that your brain may not “register” when it comes to fullness (2).

  • Your brain loses its ability to make, shall we say, wise decisions (3).

  • Your blood sugar drops when you drink alcohol, which may lead to even more intense  cravings for unhealthy carbohydrates (4).

Aside from weight issues, there are obvious health issues related to alcohol. For most of us, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) is fine—especially if it’s red wine, which has specific health benefits – yay (5)! High alcohol consumption, on the other hand, in addition to being toxic to the brain and liver, is related to an increased risk of cancer and death (6,7). Also, the pattern of drinking matters: the health benefits of having one drink a day do not apply to drinking seven drinks once a week (8).

Since your unrestrained brain isn’t going to keep track of the calories you drink, I’m happy to do it for you:

  • Beer, regular, 12 oz                                               150 calories

  • Beer, light                                                                  100

  • IPA beer                                                                200+

  • Wine, 6 oz                                                                   150

  • Liquor, 1.5 oz shot                                                 100

  • Hard seltzer                                                          100

  • Hard cider                                                             200

  • Cocktail                                                                 200-500

  • Fancy-dancy frozen drinks                                  500+

Regardless of the outcome in November, I’m likely to get drunk and not care about the calories on election night. The difference will be, will I want to get up the next morning and go back to taking good care of myself? God help us all.




(1)Mozaffarian D. Dietary and policy priorities for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Circulation 2016; 133:187-225.

 (2)Caton SJ et al. Alcohol, appetite and loss of restraint. Curr Obes Rep 2015; (1)99. 

(3)Christensen L. Craving for sweet carbohydrate and fat-rich foods. Possible triggers and impact on nutritional intake. Nutr Bull 2007; 32:43-51.

(4)Tetzschner R et al. Effects of alcohol on plasma glucose and prevention of alcohol-induced hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes-A systematic review with GRADE. Diab Metab Res Rev 2018; (3).

(5) Artero A et al. The impact of moderate wine consumption on health. Maturitas 2015; 80(1):3-13.

(6)Kunzmann AT et al. The association of lifetime alcohol use with mortality and cancer risk in older adults: A cohort study.PLoS Med 15(6): e1002585.

(7)Katzke VA et al. Lifestyle and cancer risk. Cancer J 2015; 21(2):104-10. 

(8) Bagnardi V et al. Does drinking pattern modify the effect of alcohol on the risk of coronary heart disease? Evidence from a meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health 2008; 62:615-9.