Whether it’s feeling the urge to order something greasy from the bar after a few beers, or enjoying cocktails while out to dinner, not realizing how much you are eating when you drink alcohol is a phenomenon that many experience. The urge to eat while feeling the effects of alcohol is common. In fact, studies are being published [1] to find correlations between alcohol use and overeating to determine if alcohol causes overeating.

Alcohol blocks feelings of being satiation, or fullness, from a meal that would have satisfied you otherwise. A study, done by researchers at Laval University, provides a theory.  In this study, subjects were given either a high fat appetizer with an alcoholic beverage or a low-fat appetizer without an alcoholic beverage, both with the same amount of calories. The men with the high fat, alcohol-based appetizer ate significantly more of the entree following the appetizer. Interestingly, this group also ate more at the evening meal than the group who did not drink alcohol. Furthermore, the subjects reported no difference in hunger and fullness [2].

The amount of alcohol consumed also plays a role in fullness. A 2008 study, by Lloyd-Richardson et al. compared two groups of people who consumed alcohol; 1) people who reported drinking alcohol 1-2 times per month, consuming 2-3 drinks per occasion, and 2) people who drink 1-3 times per week and consuming 4-5 drinks per occasion. The findings of this study indicated that the second group that drank more alcohol more often were more likely to report increases in appetite, overeating after alcohol use and increases in body mass index[3]. Therefore, there is a long-term, evidence-based connection between excessive eating and drinking.

If you can stop drinking alcohol altogether, fantastic. If moderate alcohol consumption is part of your lifestyle, there are ways to drink in a healthy way that does not encourage overeating. Take into account your personality and lifestyle. If you must have a glass of red wine with dinner, that’s fine – alcohol can be good for you! The key is moderation. If you know you’ll come home after a big night out and overeat, make a plan to not have those foods you tend to overeat in the house that night. If you are a known overeater, know that you must reduce your alcohol intake to cut your cravings. Be aware of your alcohol intake now that you know the effects it has on your appetite. Consume in moderation now that you know that alcohol causes overeating.

[1] Landgren et al, Association of nAChR gene haplotypes with heavy alcohol use and body mass. Brain Research, Vol. 1305, 11 December 2009, p. S72-S79.

[2] Tremblay, A., St.-Pierre, S. Alcohol, fat increase appetite. Healthy Weight Journal, 10750169, Jul/Aug97, Vol. 11, Issue 4

[3] EE Lloyd-Richardson, ML Lucero, JR Dibello, AE Jacobson and RR Wing, The relationship between alcohol use, eating habits, and weight change in college freshman, Eating Behaviors 9 (2008), pp. 504–508.