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Drinking alcohol while trying to achieve weight loss can be a double-edged sword, and there is no real scientific consensus about this topic.

The good news is that alcohol has been shown to raise the metabolism. Some studies have also shown that as alcohol consumption increases, the amount of sugar consumed decreases. Plus alcohol contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium.

Now for the bad news. The downside of alcohol (at least in terms of managing your weight) is that it is essentially a sugar. And because the body sees alcohol as a toxin, the liver immediately metabolizes it in order to remove it from the system. Drinking too much over an extended period of time can cause not only obesity, but other health problems including cirrhosis and fatty liver disease. The key to alcohol and weight loss is drinking alcohol in moderation.

Because alcohol is broken down into sugar, it can affect blood sugar levels. When blood sugar spikes, the insulin that is released from the pancreas tells the body to store that sugar as fat rather than using it for immediate energy. With excessive alcohol use, more fat is stored and it puts excess strain on not only the liver, but the pancreas as well. This can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome and eventually diabetes.

Even though alcohol does not contribute much in the way of nutrients, alcoholic beverages can stimulate the appetite and reduce inhibitions. You may end up snacking on more junk food than you might otherwise consider eating. This will definitely work against any weight loss goals you may have.

Although alcohol abuse can generate weight loss, it is not a healthy kind. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to dehydration and loss of key minerals. Because alcohol in large amounts acts as a diuretic, many of the minerals on which your body depends are washed out with that water, and the body looks for more food to replenish the lost nutrients.

Studies have shown that those who consume alcohol in moderation have a longer and better life than either those who abstain completely or those who abuse alcohol. People who drink in moderation tend to not be obese, with a 27% lower risk of obesity than those who abstain.  However, heavy drinkers (more than 4 drinks a day) are 46% more likely to be obese than those who abstain.

It’s very easy to underestimate the amount of alcohol we actually consume. According to experts, if you’re a man drinking more than 14 drinks per week or a woman having more than 7 drinks per week, you’re overdoing it. One drink consists of a 12-oz can of beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5-oz shot of 80 proof liquor. This does not mean that it’s a good idea to drink your entire weekly allotment all at once over the weekend. Rather, your consumption should be spread out over the week.

While there is no clear consensus about the net effects of alcohol on our ability to lose weight, there is little evidence to suggest that moderate drinking will doom your diet.

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