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How you eat when you drink.

How you eat when you drink

Though U.S. adults consume an average of 160 calories in alcohol daily, its effect on dietary patterns "has not received much attention," note John M. de Castro and Sara Orozco of Georgia State University in Atlanta. So these two psychologists paid 92 adults to keep a log of one week's consumption of food and drink, including when they ate, how they felt while eating, and the number of people present. Their findings, reported in the August AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION, offer several new insights.

For example, contrary to popular expectations -- and observations of alcoholics -- the study's social drinkers did not substitute alcohol for more nutritious calorie sources. Though 32 subjects abstained from alcohol, the other 60 recorded either low or moderate alcohol consumption, imbibing an average of 35 and 140 calories of alcohol per day respectively. While the number of calories obtained from carbohydrates, fats and proteins did not differ significantly among the no-, low-and moderate-alcohol groups, the nondrinkers consumed the fewest calories from foods other than alcohol; moderate drinkers consumed the most.

People in the two drinking groups consumed "significantly more" calories on days when they drank -- a difference "due solely to the alcohol calories," the researchers note. However, the meals they consumed with alcohol tended to contain about 350 calories more than those consumed without -- and about 500 calories more than meals eaten by the abstainers. More than half the caloric increase in meals accompanied by alcohol came from nonalcoholic sources: an average of 60 to 80 calories more from carbohydrates, 65 to 100 calories more from fat and 35 to 60 calories more from protein.

Duration may help explain the size of meals consumed with alcohol. Diners spent more than 2.5 times as long on meals with alcohol than on those without. However, meals also got larger as the day wore on, and later meals were more likely to include alcohol. "This suggests that the apparent influence of alcohol on meal size is due to the time of day and is not a direct effect of alcohol on food intake," de Castro and Orozco say. Yet the researchers had found in a previous study -- not focusing on alcohol -- that the number of people at a meal provided the "single most powerful predictor of food intake." This may also hold for meals served with alcohol, the team notes, since the new study showed an average of 2.44 people present at meals served with alcohol, and 1.37 people at meals served without.
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Title Annotation:effect of alcohol on dietary patterns
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 11, 1990
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