Consumption of alcohol even in small amounts can result in obesity and metabolic syndrome, suggests study


People often consume alcohol while socialising, to celebrate or to wind down. But how much alcohol is too much?

As per the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate use of alcohol is defined as two drinks a day for men and one for women, depending on alcohol content in the concerning drink. But recent research done on 2.7 crore people shows that even a small amount of alcohol can have a strong negative effect on people.

In a recent study, presented at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO) on 2 September, scientists stated that consumption of more than half a standard alcoholic drink a day, which was reported to be equivalent to 7 grammes of pure alcohol, can increase the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome in both men and women.

How does alcohol influence body weight?

Alcohol consumption makes certain changes in the body which results in weight gain. Researchers at the University of Liverpool found that daily consumption of alcohol increases the appetite by reducing the functioning of leptin (the hormone which manages and reduces hunger), which ultimately results in weight gain. A Swedish study also found that the levels of leptin decreased by almost 50 percent after consuming alcohol. Drinking alcohol has also been associated with an increase in the amount of subcutaneous fat, both in men and women, especially around the abdominal area.

The large scale study

The study was conducted by Dr Hye Jung Shin from the National Medical Centre, Seoul, South Korea, along with his colleagues and included nearly 2.7 crore adults, ageing 20 years and older. In this study, scientists have assumed a standard alcoholic drink to be 14 grammes of alcohol, which is roughly equivalent to a 118 ml glass of wine or a 355 ml bottle of beer.

The researchers examined the health status data and alcohol consumption data of over 1.4 crore men and 1.2 crore women between 2015 to 2016. The data was collected from the Korean National Health Insurance System. The scientists took other potentially influencing factors such as age, exercise, smoking and income in account.

Results of the study

The results of the analysis showed that alcohol consumption has a strong association with obesity, as well as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions such as obesity, abnormal blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, all of which increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

It was found that men who consumed either half or one standard drink a day (which is equivalent to 7.1 to 14 grammes of alcohol) were around 10 percent more likely to suffer from obesity and metabolic syndrome while the ones who consumed up to two drinks a day (which is equivalent to 14.1 to 24 grammes of alcohol) showed 22 percent to 25 percent increased risk of getting the disease.

Amongst all, the men who drank more than two drinks (24 grammes of alcohol) per day showed 34 percent higher risk for developing obesity and 42 percent increased risk of suffering from metabolic syndrome.

The scientists concluded that people who consume more than half a standard drink per day, ie, 7 grammes of alcohol per day, are at risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. The scientists added that more research needs to be done on this topic.

For more information, read our article on Alcohol.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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