Does drinking alcohol affect appetite in anyway? As alcohol contains calories, one may assume that it should reduce appetite, if it affects it at all. Many people, speaking from personal experience, can attest to the fact that alcohol does not decrease subsequent food intake, and often leads one to overeat. Do studies agree with this perspective? It turns out that the majority of studies are in agreement that alcohol can stimulate food intake when eating a meal immediately after drinking alcohol.
Studies Showing Alcohol Increases Appetite
A 2001 study measured the effects of alcohol on appetite in 26 adult males (1). Subjects were given a no-alcohol lager or lager with alcohol and then asked to eat lunch. Those in the alcohol group consumed, on average, 15% more calories at lunch. Interestingly, the subjects that ate more calories after drinking alcohol did not report an increase in appetite.
A 2003 study giving subjects either 1 unit of alcohol or 4 units of alcohol thirty minutes before lunch found that the higher alcohol group consumed significantly more food at lunch (2). Unlike the previous study, those in the higher alcohol intake group reported higher levels of hunger. Food intake at dinner was similar between both groups, but overall energy intake for the day was higher among the higher alcohol group.
A newer review article from 2010 discussing the role of alcohol on obesity found that alcohol may only stimulate short term energy intake (3). It was concluded that the evidence strongly suggests that alcohol drank before a meal significantly increases energy intake at that meal compared to those not drinking alcohol. They also found that alcohol primarily stimulates appetite once food intake is started, so if you can hold off on eating for a while you may be able to block the effects of alcohol on food intake.
How Does Alcohol Increase Appetite?
The answer to this question is more difficult to answer than it appears. Scientists have a few ideas about the ways in which drinking alcohol can increase appetite and food intake. A few ideas talk about the role that the environment can have on overeating, while others discuss how alcohol induces metabolic changes that lead to overeating. A future article will discuss this topic in greater detail.
- Alcohol has long been suspected to increase appetite.
- Studies have shown that drinking alcohol before a meal increases the amount eaten at the meal.
- It was also found that alcohol primarily stimulates appetite once food intake is started.
- Hetherington, M. M., Cameron, F., Wallis, D. J., & Pirie, L. M. (2001). Stimulation of appetite by alcohol. Physiology & behavior, 74(3), 283-289.
- Caton, S. J., Ball, M., Ahern, A., & Hetherington, M. M. (2004). Dose-dependent effects of alcohol on appetite and food intake. Physiology & behavior, 81(1), 51-58.
- Yeomans, M. R. (2010). Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity?. Physiology & behavior, 100(1), 82-89.