APH 2001, 59, 223-238:

Overweight, obesity and beer consumption.  Alcohol drinking habits in Belgium and body mass index.

Ph. J. Janssens, L. Bruckers, JV Joossens, G. Molenberghs, J. Vinck, D. Renard and J. Tafforeau

Keywords: Beer, wine, alcohol consumption, alcoholic beverages, obesity, body mass index

Objective: The relationship between body weight and alcohol, particulary beer, consumption was studied in a representative sample of the Belgian population using a quantity frequency (QF) index, which measures the units of alcohol weekly consumed.  The data of the health questionnaires 1997 were used.

Design: A total of 10000 individuals were interviewed and, after omission of individuals younger than 15 years of age, the questionnaires of 7809 subjects were used for analysis.  The most important confounding factors reported in the literature, i.e. smoking behaviour, concern for weight, sugared drinks, snacks, milk products, fish, type of bread, use of fats, lack of physical activity, age, educational level and income, were corrected for in the analysis.  We distinguished between beer, wine and strong alcoholic drinks.

Results: Results show that contribution of alcohol to the body mass index of the population is minor.  For males the body mass index (BMI) and the risk for obesity increase slightly by increasing QF index.  Women show a negative relation because BMI and the risk for obesity decrease with increasing QF index.  In women, the relative risk for obesity decreases with increasing beer intake and the BMI decreases with increasing wine intake.

Conclusion: Moderate consumption of alcohol increases slightly the BMI and risk for obesity in men and decreases the BMI and risk for obesity in women.  Beer seems not to confer an increased risk for obesity and overweight.  Complex gender specific effects on BMI and risk to obesity were observed and demand further exploration.