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Drinking Stimulates Consumption of High-Fat Foods

Why did you eat that whole bag of chips? Blame the alcohol you used to wash them down.
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(Photo: panco971/Shutterstock)

(Photo: panco971/Shutterstock)

Plenty of research supports the notion that drinking, at least in moderation, is good for your health. But newly published research from the Netherlands puts an asterisk on those findings.

In a small-scale study, men who had alcohol with their lunch ate more food, specifically consuming greater quantities of high-fat, savory dishes. They also reported greater enjoyment of this unhealthy fare.

Answers to a questionnaire revealed that moderate drinking increased enjoyment of and desire for fatty (but not sweet) foods.

So while that drink might be good for your heart, the eating it stimulates may have the opposite effect.

In the journal Appetite, a team led by Ilse Schrieks of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research describes a study featuring 24 healthy men, all of whom were moderate drinkers. They were randomly assigned to drink either a combination of vodka and orange juice (containing 20 grams of alcohol) or orange juice only.

Afterwards, they enjoyed a buffet lunch, featuring bread and a variety of toppings. These fell into four categories: High-fat savory (pate and salami), low-fat savory (lean ham and smoked beef), high-fat sweet (hazelnut spread and coconut slices), and low-fat sweet (jam and apple syrup). Researchers noted how much food in each category they consumed.

Men who had consumed alcohol came back on a subsequent day and performed the experiment drinking only orange juice, and vice-versa. They were not informed whether their drink was alcoholic.

The researchers found the men ate more if their OJ had been spiked. “Alcohol consumption increased subsequent energy intake during lunch by 11 percent, as compared to no alcohol intake,” they report.

That figure is deceptively low, since it includes a separate set of experiments in which the men ate a piece of cake before their lunch. Among those in the control group, who ate no cake, alcohol increased food intake by a remarkable 19 percent.

In an even more troubling finding, the researchers report “participants consumed 24 percent more high-fat savory lunch toppings after alcohol consumption.” Answers to a questionnaire revealed that moderate drinking increased their enjoyment of and desire for fatty (but not sweet) foods.

So if you eat too much pizza at your Super Bowl party this weekend, blame the beer. And if you're concerned about losing weight, keep in mind that the calorie count on the bottle doesn't tell the whole story.