Non-Communicable Diseases: Booze Fuels Youth Obesity Crisis
Canadian researchers have published a new study showing that adolescent alcohol use has a much bigger impact on youth obesity rates than previously thought.
The study entitled “Estimating how extra calories from alcohol consumption are likely an overlooked contributor to youth obesity” has been conducted by researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Key study findings
The researchers found that nearly 39% of students reported binge alcohol intake – defined as having five alcoholic drinks or more in one sitting – at least once a month, and 11% reported binge alcohol use at least once a week.
All this alcohol consumption translates into calories.
By comparing student alcohol use habits with the nutritional information of popular types of alcoholic beverages (vodka coolers, beer, and wine) the researchers were able to make estimates on just how much weight a student might gain from the caloric intake of a year of binge alcohol intake.
- Youth who binge consumed vodka coolers at least once a week were consuming an extra 57,000 calories a year. This would add about 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs) of fat to their frames.
Broken down by sex, the study found males were twice as likely to binge use alcohol once a week than females and three times as likely to binge use alcohol two or more times per week.
Study design and context
The researchers had high-school students from 89 schools fill out confidential surveys as they progressed through their senior year. In these surveys, the students recorded the amount and kinds of alcohol they consumed each week, among other factors.
The study is one of the first to examine youth obesity through the lens of alcohol consumption, shedding light on a previously overlooked reason why one in five American children and one in eight Canadian children may be obese. Most similar studies in this sphere have focused on the impact that sugary beverage consumption (e.g. sodas and energy drinks) has on weight gain.
The high prevalence of frequent alcohol consumption and binge drinking by youth in this study, and the substantial number of calories contained in alcoholic beverages, suggest alcohol may be a key component of the obesity discussion that should not be overlooked,” the researchers wrote.