The study investigates the contribution of alcohol-derived calories to the alcohol–obesity relation. Alcohol calories may be a significant contributor to the rise in obesity.


Nicola Jane Shelton, PhD, and Craig S. Knott, BSc


Shelton NJ, Knott CS. Association between alcohol calorie intake and overweight and obesity in English adults. Am J Public Health. 2014;104(4):629-631. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301643

American Journal of Public Health
Release date

Association Between Alcohol Calorie Intake and Overweight and Obesity in English Adults

Research article


The researchers investigated the contribution of alcohol-derived calories to the alcohol–obesity relation. Adult alcohol calorie intake was derived from consumption volume and alcoholic drink type in the Health Survey for England 2006 (n = 8864).

The researchers calculated the odds of obesity with survey-adjusted logistic regression. Mean alcohol calorie consumption was 27% of the recommended daily calorie intake in men and 19% in women on the heaviest alcohol consumption day in the last week, with a positive association between alcohol calories and obesity.

Alcohol calories may be a significant contributor to the rise in obesity.


Research suggests that alcohol consumption may represent a sizable risk factor for weight gain.

Alcohol has been found to account for approximately 10% of adult alcohol users’ total energy intake on average in the United Kingdom and 16% in the United States, with men consuming about 3 times the amount consumed by women. 

In the United Kingdom, the general population has poor knowledge of alcohol calories, with 4 of 10 unaware of alcohol calories and their food equivalents. 

This study sought to estimate drink-specific alcohol-derived calories and explore the contribution of such intake to the alcohol–obesity relation.


Associations with obesity mirror findings from studies of alcohol units, suggesting that the alcohol–obesity relation may be in part a product of caloric factors. Although the United States had lower levels of per capita alcohol consumption and a lower prevalence of hazardous alcohol use than in the United Kingdom, the proportion of energy intake from alcohol is greater in the United States. This may be attributable to inter-country differences in alcohol type preference, with greater proportions of US alcohol users consuming beer and liquor – the alcohol types most strongly related in this brief’s analyses to the risk for obesity.

Such data hint at the importance of alcohol culture as a mediator of the alcohol–obesity relation. Policymakers in both countries must give attention to such consumers, and future research should examine the association between other conditions and alcohol calories.

This study did not consider the calorie content of mixers, which may account for the significant associations between liquor and obesity.

Source Website: American Journal of Public Health