There is no level of alcohol intake that confers any actual benefits on your health, as revealed by YourLifeChoices. Notwithstanding that revelation, the fact remains that a vast number of Australians continue to drink at least in moderation.
With that in mind, one pertinent question among moderate drinkers might be, are some alcoholic drinks more likely to affect your waist size than others?
The answer, it seems, is yes. Research suggests that some alcoholic drinks are more likely than others to contribute to an increase in levels of visceral fat.
In a study published in last year, Brittany Larsen (PhD candidate in neuroscience at Iowa State University) and her co-authors investigated how different alcohol types (beer/cider, red wine, white wine, sparkling, spirits) affected body composition.
They found that visceral adiposity – in simple terms, too much visceral fat – varied depending on the type of alcohol consumed. Visceral fat, also often described as ‘hidden fat’, is considered to be the most damaging type of fat.
It can build up around and between organs, and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and other health complications. Typically in humans, visceral fat comprises about 10 per cent of all body fat, but an expanding waistline could be a sign that your visceral fat level has exceeded a healthy norm.
For women, a waist circumference of 80 centimetres or higher is considered to contribute to an elevated risk of a number of chronic diseases. In men, the equivalent figure is 94 centimetres. Any more than that and there’s a fair chance of seeing what is classically referred to as a ‘beer gut’.
Which takes us back to the all-important question: which alcoholic drinks are more likely to give you a bigger belly? Has beer been unfairly maligned as the culprit? Yes – and no. While beer is indeed a contributor to elevated levels of visceral fat, it is not the only one. Spirits fall into the same category.
If you’re planning to continue enjoying a tipple but want to keep your waist expansion to a minimum, wine is your best bet. And if you prefer a pinot noir to a pinot grigio, the news is better still. Red wine has actually been linked to lower levels of visceral fat.
That’s not to say red wine is beneficial for your health. The other risks associated with alcohol consumption as outlined in our earlier article still apply to a glass of red.
But, if you are going to have a drink, then a drop of red gives you a greater chance of keeping your waistline within a healthy range.
If you don’t place too much importance on body shape, does any of this really matter? Yes, because of the clear links between an oversized waistline and chronic health problems. As Ms Larsen notes, in the US, national medical care costs associated with treating obesity-related diseases total more than US$260.6 billion annually.
By all means enjoy your drink of choice, but keep in mind the risks that enjoyment entails.