We have all heard of the famous, and dreaded, “beer belly.” The added caloric intake from the alcohol plays a large role, along with the poor eating habits that are often correlated with inebriation. But how much of this weight gain can be attributed to the systemic effect of alcohol on the body?
In one study, male subjects were subjected to a large dose of ethanol (1.75g/kg of body weight), and measured for changes in testosterone and cortisol levels. For reference, these subjects reached a peak blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.151% by volume, or slightly less than double the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle in the United States.
Increased cortisol levels and decreased testosterone levels were measured at their maximum variances at 12 hours post-consumption, and the altered hormonal state persisted past the 24-hour mark. A peak decrease of -23% in serum testosterone levels and a peak increase of +36% in cortisol levels were quantified in a similar study. In a third study, measuring the effects of moderate alcohol consumption (~0.5g/kg of body weight) found a peak decrease of -6.8% in serum testosterone levels.
Given the research studies linking increased cortisol levels with accumulation and retention of abdominal fat, along with the fact that many heavy drinkers are rarely more than 24 hours away from their last drink, it is likely that alcoholics experience a constant state of hormonal imbalance associated with unhealthy weight gain.
- Header Image: Kate Borkowski (Flickr)
- Do Alcohol Calories Count?–American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- High Fat Diet and Alcohol–American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Hormones and Alcohol Intoxication–Alcohol
- Endocrine Function after Intoxication–Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
- Alcohol in the Middle-Aged: Alcoholism–Clinical & Experimental Research
- Stress and Appetite–Psychoneuroendocrinology
- Intoxication and Exercise–Journal of Applied Physiology
- Fatty & Muscle Tissue in Alcoholic Men–Metabolism
- Alcohol & Exercise on Hormone Levels–Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
- Alcohol, Appetite & Energy Balance–Physiology & Behavior