Light alcohol drinking may still increase risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome

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In a study from National Medical Center Seoul, scientists found drinking more than half a standard alcoholic drink a day (equivalent to 7g of pure alcohol) is linked to an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome in both men and women.

In the study, the team examined nearly 27 million adults (aged 20 years and older) from South Korea.

They defined one standard alcoholic drink as 14g of alcohol per day, which is roughly equivalent to a small (118 ml) glass of wine or a 355 ml bottle of beer.

WHO defines a standard alcoholic drink as 10 g of pure ethanol, with both men and women advised not to exceed 2 standard drinks per day.

The team found a strong association between alcohol consumption and obesity, as well as between alcohol intake and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including overweight/obesity, abnormal blood sugar, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood fats that put people at higher risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke if uncontrolled.

Compared with non-drinkers, men who drank on average between half and one standard drink a day (7.1-14g alcohol) were around 10% more likely to have obesity and metabolic syndrome, while consuming up to two drinks a day (14.1-24g alcohol) was linked to 22% and 25% greater odds, respectively.

The highest risk was seen in men who drank more than two drinks or 24g of alcohol per day, with 34% higher odds of obesity and 42% greater odds of metabolic syndrome.

Similarly, women who consumed a higher quantity of alcohol were more likely to have obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Consuming on average between half and one drink a day was associated with 9% higher odds of obesity, but 3% reduced odds of metabolic syndrome compared to non-drinkers.

Women who reported drinking on average more than two drinks or 24g of alcohol per day, had 22% and 18% higher odds of obesity or metabolic syndrome respectively.

These results suggest that the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome increases in proportion to alcohol consumption when men and women drink more than half a standard drink per day.

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The research was presented at The European and International Congress on Obesity and conducted by Dr. Hye Jung Shin et al.

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