Latest scientific news 28 April 2022

Can the alcoholic beverage preference influence body composition?

The current study examined whether different alcoholic beverages (beer/cider, red and white wine/champagne, spirits) are differentially related to body composition.

Decades of epidemiological research have shown conflicting findings when it comes to intake of alcoholic beverages and adiposity. The intake of alcoholic beverages has been associated with both higher and lower body weight. Very few studies have assessed how specific types of alcoholic beverages may differentially influence body composition.

To assess how alcohol may influence body composition, the patterns of drinking for different alcoholic beverages need to be considered rather than simply assessing alcohol consumption as a whole.

In this study, American researchers not only used data such as drinking patterns, eating habits, demographic and anthropometric characteristics from the UK Biobank database but also analysed serum biomarkers and parameters of the body composition that were collected from the study participants. 1869 individuals, age 40-80 years, were included in the study. They were grouped according to their drinking preferences: 39% indicated no preference, 11% preferred beer or cider, 25% mostly consumed red wine, 16% mostly white wine or champagne and 7% other wines. Only 2% consumed most of the alcoholic beverages as spirits.

The results showed that a preference for beer or cider was directly associated with a greater visceral adipose mass, which could be explained with the respective biomarkers for lipid metabolisms and for insulin resistance. In contrast, greater red wine consumption was inversely related with visceral body fat1, which means that red wine drinkers had less of the unhealthy abdominal fat. The authors explained this observation with lower levels of biomarkers that are responsible for inflammation, a higher level of “good” HDL cholesterol and a better kidney clearance. White wine consumption showed no association with adiposity and interestingly, a better bone mineral density. As possible explanation referred the researchers to a higher concentration of a particular polyphenol in white wine compared to red wine.

Spirit consumption was related to a higher visceral body fat.

The authors concluded that a preference for beer and spirits could be linked to greater adiposity-associated weight gain in older white adults. In contrast, red wine consumption could be inversely related to visceral weight gain and white wine consumption may help to reduce age-associated bone mineral loss. They caution that these results can only be applied to older British individuals but if the described effects can be confirmed in further studies, moderate wine consumption could be considered beneficial in the prevention of overweight and its consequences, osteoporosis and fractures.

1Visceral fat is stored in a person’s abdominal cavity and is also known as ‘active fat’ as it influences how hormones function in the body. Because visceral fat is in the abdominal cavity, it is close to many vital organs, such as the pancreas, liver, and intestines.

The higher the amount of visceral fat an individual stores, the higher the risk for certain health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Source: Larsen, BA et al.: Beer, wine, and spirits differentially influence body composition in older white adults – a United Kingdom Biobank Study. Obesity Science and Practice 2022;1-16

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