How does alcohol affect our weight?


It does, in four ways, and it has a lot to do with our liver.

As Welsh researcher Zoe Harcombe points out, because the body registers alcohol as a poison, it prioritises its removal before doing anything else.

The liver is a workhorse — it’s a busy organ with many jobs. But if there’s a poison to remove, that gets all the attention.

The first issue with alcohol and weight is that while our liver’s processing alcohol, it can’t metabolise fat. So alcohol stops our body from burning fat.

The second is that while this is happening the liver can’t regulate blood sugar either. Our blood sugar could fall and make us hungry. That’s why some people get an attack of the munchies when they’ve been drinking.

Third, the body burns alcohol before anything else. That means any food we’ve eaten won’t be used up until the alcohol has been. So we’ve got more chance of storing food as fat rather than it being used for energy.

Finally, alcoholic drinks contain more than just alcohol, and some of them contain lots of sugar and carbs. As Dr Harcombe says, beer is liquid bread, in effect. And if we have a fondness for cocktails, liqueurs or spirits with soft drink, the calories ramp up.

In summary, it’s not just the caloric content of whatever we’re drinking that’s the issue. It might be a factor, but there’s more going on.

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