Even half a glass of alcohol increases risk of obesity, study shows

MIDDLESEX, United Kingdom — While some studies find there may be benefits to light drinking, a new report reveals even one alcoholic beverage a day can mean bad news for your waistline. A study of nearly 27 million people in South Korea finds the more alcohol you drink each day increases your risk for both obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Hye Jung Shin of the National Medical Center in Seoul says as little as half a glass can raise a drinker’s risk of obesity by as much as 10 percent. While researchers do not give a cause for this connection, their observations find this risk keeps climbing compared to non-drinkers.

“Our results suggest that the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome increases in proportion to alcohol consumption when male and female adults drink more than half a standard drink per day,” study authors explain in a media release.

How much is too much?

Since all beverages are not created equal, how are drinkers supposed to know how much alcohol is in one “standard” drink? For their research, study authors consider one drink as 14 grams of alcohol. This is the equivalent of a four-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce beer.

The study actually gives drinkers more leeway than the World Health Organization, which calls a drink 10g of pure ethanol (drinking alcohol). WHO also recommends both men and women avoid having more than two drinks a day.

Confirming WHO’s recommendation, the Korean team finds the highest risks for obesity and metabolic syndrome come with having more than two drinks daily. Researchers define metabolic syndrome as a variety of conditions such as obesity, abnormal blood sugar, or high blood pressure which put patients at high risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

Alcohol has stronger link to obesity than metabolic syndrome

The report examines data on over 14 million men and 12 million women over the age of 20 from the Korean National Health Insurance System. After accounting for factors like age, exercise and smoking habits, and income, the study reveals men are more susceptible to the effects of drinking than women.

For men, drinkers consuming between one-half and one drink raise their risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome by 10 percent. Those having up to two drinks a day see that risk increase 22 percent for obesity and 25 percent for metabolic syndrome.

Men having more than two alcoholic beverages (over 24g daily) see a 34-percent increased risk for becoming obese and 42-percent higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome.

For women, the results actually show more connections to obesity than metabolic syndrome. Females having one-half to one beverage daily see a nine-percent higher chance of obesity, but researchers also find a three-percent lower chance of developing metabolic syndrome.

This improvement is only a short-term gain however, as women having more than two drinks suffer a 22-percent higher risk of obesity. The chances of metabolic syndrome also rise by 18 percent.

Dr. Hye’s study cautions that the results could vary in other ethnic populations.

The findings are being presented at the at the 2020 European and International Congress on Obesity.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. Since I don’t drink, I should be skinny, but I’m not.
    How many fat winos have you seen?
    Most the information from WHO makes me think they have a buzz on all the time.
    Is this a real study or just someone writing a story?

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