Environmental factors

The Visceral Trouble with Beer

Drinking beer and spirits is linked to elevated levels of visceral fat – the harmful type of fat that is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and other health complications – whereas drinking wine shows no such association with levels of this harmful fat and may even be protective against it, depending on the type of wine consumed. In fact, we found that drinking red wine is linked to having lower levels of visceral fat. These are some of the key takeaways from a new study that my colleagues and I recently published in the Obesity Science & Practice journal.

Although white wine consumption did not influence levels of visceral fat, our study did show that drinking white wine in moderation might offer its own unique health benefit for older adults: denser bones. We found higher bone mineral density among older adults who drank white wine in moderation in our study. And we did not find this same link between beer or red wine consumption and bone mineral density.

Our study relied on a large-scale longitudinal database called the UK Biobank. We assessed 1,869 white adults ranging in age from 40 to 79 years who reported demographic, alcohol, dietary and lifestyle factors via a touchscreen questionnaire. Next, we collected height, weight and blood samples from each participant and obtained body composition information using a direct measure of body composition called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Then, we used a statistical program to examine the relationships among the types of alcoholic beverages and body composition.

Why it matters

Aging is often accompanied by an increase in the problematic fat that can lead to heightened cardiovascular disease risk as well as by a reduction in bone mineral density. This has important health implications given that nearly 75% of adults in the US are considered overweight or obese. Having higher levels of body fat has been consistently linked to an increased risk for acquiring many different diseases, including cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and a higher risk of death. And it’s worth noting that national medical care costs associated with treating obesity-related diseases total more than US$260.6 billion annually.

Considering these trends, it is vital for researchers like us to examine all the potential contributors to weight gain so that we can determine how to combat the problem. Alcohol has long been considered one possible driving factor for the obesity epidemic. Yet the public often hears conflicting information about the potential risks and benefits of alcohol. Therefore, we hoped to help untangle some of these factors through our research.

What still isn’t known

There are many biological and environmental factors that contribute to being overweight or obese. Alcohol consumption may be one factor, although there are other studies that have not found clear links between weight gain and alcohol consumption.

One reason for the inconsistencies in the literature could stem from the fact that much of the previous research has traditionally treated alcohol as a single entity rather than separately measuring the effects of beer, cider, red wine, white wine, champagne and spirits. Yet, even when broken down in this way, the research yields mixed messages.

For example, one study has suggested that drinking more beer contributes to a higher waist-to-hip ratio, while another study concluded that, after one month of drinking moderate levels of beer, healthy adults did not experience any significant weight gain.

As a result, we’ve aimed to further tease out the unique risks and benefits that are associated with each alcohol type. Our next steps will be to examine how diet – including alcohol consumption – could influence diseases of the brain and cognition in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Brittany Larsen is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience and a Graduate Assistant at Iowa State University.


The conversation arose out of deep-seated concerns for the fading quality of our public discourse and recognition of the vital role that academic experts could play in the public arena. Information has always been essential to democracy. It’s a social good, like clean water. But many now find it difficult to put their trust in the media and experts who have spent years researching a topic. Instead, they listen to those who have the loudest voices. Those uninformed views are amplified by social media networks that reward those who spark outrage instead of insight or thoughtful discussion. The conversation seeks to be part of the solution to this problem, to raise up the voices of true experts and to make their knowledge available to everyone. The Conversation publishes nightly at 9 pm on FlaglerLive.


Previous Conversations:

  • Tattoos’ Long and August History of Meanings
  • Millions of Unemployed Are About to Hurt a Lot More as Benefits Run Out
  • Buried Power Lines Aren’t Fail-Safe
  • Behind Hurricane Ida’s Record-Shattering Rainfall in New York and the Northeast: Yes, It’s Global Warming
  • When Human Life Begins Is a Question of Politics, Not Biology
  • How Warm Gulf Patch Quickly Turned Hurricane Ida Into a Monster Storm
  • Is It a Crime to Forge a Vaccine Card?
  • This Is What Happens to Child Migrants at the Border
  • The Story of the Women Behind the First Domestic Violence Shelters
  • The Supreme Court Ended the Eviction Ban. Now What? 4 questions answered.
  • ISIS-K, the Taliban’s Rival Group Behind the Kabul Airport Attack
  • Clues to Misinformation Behind Public’s and Right-Wing Media’s Misuses of Vaccine Database
  • Essential and Often Overlooked: America’s Public Library Workers
  • Behind the Feds’ Tesla Investigation, and the Future of Self-Driving Cars
  • The Meaning of Happiness from the Ashes of Pompeii
  • Ashura Explained: the Shiite Muslim Holiday that Inspires Millions
  • You’re Free to Refuse the Covid Vaccine. But It’s Un-American.
  • Why I No Longer Think We Can Eliminate Covid
  • Schools and Covid Safety: What Works and What Doesn’t
  • Afghanistan and American Hubris
  • Social Justice Begins With Honest History
  • Afghanistan Was Always a Losing Battle
  • Wonder and Promise of the Appalachian Trail
  • Holocaust Survivors Got Reparations. Why Not Slavery’s Descendants?
  • The Immense Tax Sums Religious Organizations Don’t Pay
  • Don’t Be Too Quick to Claim Voter Suppression
  • Millions of Working Americans Still Can’t Afford Food and Rent
  • Understanding the IPCC Climate Report’s Dire Warnings For
  • Palestinians and Israelis, Human Rights and Another Grand Bargain
  • Cults and Cultism
  • Atomic Bomb Foresight Exploded Long Before Hiroshima
  • Changing Crime Reporting Practices to Do Less Harm
  • When Americans Recall their Roots, they Open Up to Immigration
  • Where Canadian Dads Are Warm, Kind and Gentle, American Dads Punish Harshly and Lack Emotional Support
  • Trump Endorsements Make a Difference, But Not the Way Candidates Hope They Do
  • Is It Time to Retire the ‘My Body, My Choice’ Slogan?
  • narcissists
  • How This Summer Is Changing Our Understanding of Extreme Weather
  • Cautionary Tale for Coastal Towns: What Miami’s Sea Wall Will Not Protect
  • Here’s Why You Need to Mask Up Again Indoors, Even If Vaccinated
  • Can We Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’?
  • Ghostly, Soulless, Absurd Olympics
  • At Origin of Cuba’s Mass Protests: Covid Misery and US Economic Sanctions
  • Bias Is Natural. How You Manage it Defines Your Ability to Be Just.
  • Why Some Younger Evangelicals Are Leaving the Faith
  • The Inherent Racism of Anti-Vaxx Movements
  • 63% of Workers who File an EEOC Discrimination Complaint Lose Their Jobs
  • Behind Ben & Jerry’s West Bank Decision: Israel Is Losing the Battle for Public Opinion
  • Domestic Violence 911 Calls Increased During Lockdown, but Police Reports and Arrests Declined
  • Yes, Covid Can Cause Infertility and Sexual Dysfunction. But Vaccines Cannot.
  • Is Islamophobia Hate Speech?
  • The Seduction of Propaganda
  • Ignoraunce Incarno: The Wrongheaded Calls to Cancel Chaucer
  • Most Covid Deaths in England Now Are in the Vaccinated. Here’s Why That Shouldn’t Alarm You
  • High-Tide Flood Risk Will Increase 5 to 15 Times Over Next 15 Years, Putting Coastal Economies at Risk
  • Cuba Protests: 4 Essential Reads on Dissent in the Post-Castro Era
  • Zaila Avant-garde, 2021 National Spelling Bee Champ, Stands Where Black Children Were Once Kept Out
  • Trump Before Trump: When Nixon VP Spiro Agnew Attacked News Media
  • Five Lessons on Bringing Truth Back to Politics
  • Yes, States Got More Money from Washington Than They Needed for Covid Relief
  • Trump Can’t beat Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Court but the Fight Might Be Worth More Money than a Win
  • Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits?
  • Critical Race Theory: What it Is and What, Gov. DeSantis, It Is Not
  • Debating Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, 1st Transgender Woman in Individual Sports at Olympics
  • With Support for Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad Becomes One of Several Deans to Tweet Themselves Into Trouble

See the Full Conversation Archives

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button