In a joint study between the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the results concluded that people overall eat more unhealthy foods on the days that they drink alcohol.
Food choices changed on the days that people drank… and changed in an unhealthier direction for both men and women,” said Rosalind Breslow, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the lead author of the study.
During a 10-day span, more that 1,800 people answered questions based on their drinking and diet. They reported on two days during that period: one day when they drank and one day when they did not. On average, participants drank beer or wine and had 2-3 drinks each time. When drinking, men consumed 400 more calories on those days and women consumed more than 300 calories. While the increased calories for women could be just the alcohol, for men the increase was definitely more from food.
The study also found that the type of food consumed changed on drinking days. Both men and women consumed:
- 9% more fat
- less milk
- more potatoes and meat (for men)
Why the difference in eating patterns? Researchers are not sure yet. They speculate that drinking at social events may be a cause as well as increased impulsivity while drinking. Researchers also remind us that they only studied participants’ diet on the days they were reporting. It is a possibility that participants made up for the unhealthy diet on the other days.
Previous studies showed that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death. But diet could be partly responsible since a healthy diet is associated with the same outcome.