'Light' drinking may not be light enough

'Light' drinking may not be light enough
Photo by Kelsey Knight / Unsplash

There’s a general belief that light drinking — just a drink or two a day — isn’t harmful and may even be good for you. A new study casts a bit of doubt on that somewhat rosy outlook.

The study of nearly 27 million South Korean adults 20 and older found that consuming more than half a drink per day is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome in both men and women, and the risk rises in proportion with alcohol intake. The more you drink, the worse, in other words.

The study defines one standard alcoholic drink as 14 grams of alcohol per day, which is roughly equivalent to a small (118ml) glass of wine or a 355ml bottle of beer.

The study is being presented at The European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO), held online this year. The study is by Dr Hye Jung Shin from the National Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues.

In the study, researchers analyzed health data and alcohol consumption in over 14 million men and 12 million women between 2015 and 2016 from the Korean National Health Insurance System. Even after accounting for potentially influential factors including age, exercise, smoking, and income, the analysis found a strong association between alcohol consumption and obesity, as well as between alcohol intake and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including overweight/obesity, abnormal blood sugar, high blood pressure and abnormal blood fats that put people at higher risk of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke if uncontrolled).

The highest risk was seen in men who drank more than two drinks or 24g alcohol per day, with 34% higher odds of obesity and 42% greater odds of metabolic syndrome.

“Our results suggest that the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome increases in proportion to alcohol consumption when male and female adults drink more than half a standard drink per day,” the authors concluded.