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Can I still drink wine if I'm counting calories?

Douglas De Jesus
Posted: October 27, 2014

Q: I just started a new diet, and it encourages us not to consume any beverages except water, i.e. to not "drink my calories." However, I find it difficult to enjoy social events without at least one glass of wine! Is wine always a bad idea when trying to lose weight?—Mary, New York, N.Y.

A: While it is true that the basic math of weight loss requires calories burned to exceed calories consumed, there are factors beyond that simple formula that can promote or impede weight loss. Although nutritionists don’t fully understand it, diet colas, for example, seem to have a negative effect on weight loss despite their low calorie count. But what about alcohol?

A 2010 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine has some good news for wine lovers making a lifestyle change. The study reviewed the health records of more than 200 women in their late thirties with a body mass index in the normal range, to determine whether drinking would increase the risk of becoming overweight over a 13-year period. As it turns out, women who drank alcohol regularly in light-to-moderate amounts were at the lowest risk of becoming overweight. Why? Women may metabolize alcohol more efficiently than men, according to this study's authors, so that alcohol consumption might result in a net energy loss in women; additionally, they write that alcohol appears to interfere with lipid oxidation and fat accumulation in women's bodies. However, lifestyle factors may also have contributed to the results: Moderate drinkers, such as you, may simply be inclined to make healthy choices in all areas of their lives.

So you can count yourself among a large group of health-conscious, wine-loving women, who, at least according to this study, are able to enjoy a drink at a party and still maintain a healthy weight.

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