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Alcohol and Dieting: Understanding the Risks, Effects, and Impact on Weight Loss

Written by Renee Deveney

& Medically Reviewed by Paula Holmes, LCSW

Medically Reviewed

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Medically Reviewed by Paula Holmes, LCSW

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Updated 02/17/2022

The impact of alcohol on the body during dieting can be risky.

Alcohol and dieting can be a risky combination. Sometimes we minimize the dangers of alcohol consumption because it is so easily accessible and commonly used. Diet and alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on a person’s physical health and it is important to know the risks, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Effects of Alcohol on Dieting

Many people have heard that there is a correlation between alcohol and weight gain. Alcohol and dieting effects can vary depending on a number of metabolic factors, but often the consumption of alcohol undermines a dieting plan because of the caloric intake and impact of alcohol on the digestive system and inhibitions around food intake. There are additional risk factors, beyond just a failed weight loss plan.

Moderate Drinking

People who drink moderately and diet can experience a blood pressure drop due to alcohol consumption. A shift in caloric intake and even moderate use of alcohol in people with low blood pressure can cause blood pressure levels to plummet, which can cause fainting and dizziness.

It is possible to maintain a healthy weight while consuming moderate amounts of alcohol. Certain types of alcohol, such as small amounts of red wine, have been shown to have a positive impact on heart health. In some cases, consuming a glass of wine during a meal can slow the eating process, resulting in eating less food and reaching satiety faster. People who drink moderately need to balance out the possible risks and potential rewards of alcohol on a diet plan.

Heavy Drinking

People who consume large amounts of alcohol often have a greater risk of additional health complications. High blood pressure is common for people who abuse alcohol. Consuming more than three drinks in a setting will increase blood pressure during that period of time, and repeated heavy alcohol use can result in long-term high blood pressure.

Many people who are trying to lose weight may wonder, “can alcohol cause obesity?” Obesity depends on a number of factors, but for certain people who use alcohol heavily, it can contribute to obesity. Alcohol impacts the way our bodies metabolize nutrients. When people consume alcohol, the liver suspends all other metabolic processes until the alcohol is processed, which often means an increase in cholesterol levels and greater oxidation within the blood vessels. The stereotypical “beer belly” is based on the fact that people tend to accumulate more fat in the abdominal areas when drinking heavily.

Related: Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

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Mixing Alcohol And Diet Pills

The use of diet pills with alcohol can be dangerous. Certain types of drugs for weight loss that impact the central nervous system can interact negatively with alcohol and cause symptoms such as depression, dizziness, and impaired judgment. For those with heart disease, these medications combined with alcohol use can cause rapid heart rate and blood pressure changes and should be avoided. People with diabetes who use diet medication and alcohol are also at risk of drastic blood sugar changes, which can have detrimental effects on health. There are many types of medications that interact negatively with alcohol. It is wise to consult a physician or pharmacist to stay ahead of any potential interactions.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, the professionals at The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health are available to discuss treatment options and a support plan to help you get back on track. You don’t need to face recovery alone. Call today to learn about comprehensive treatment plans.

View Sources

Traversy, Gregory; Chaput, Jean-Philippe. “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” National Institute of Health, January 8, 2015. Accessed September 7, 2019.

EatingWell. “Can Alcohol Be Part of a Healthy Diet?” Accessed September 7, 2019.