Research: Alcohol increases the intake of junk food.

Research wordResearch word

Drinking alcohol increases grazing for junk food.  

beer belly gut

beer belly gut

We have all had a night of debauchery in our youth where we spent the night out with friends hopping from bar to bar followed by a less than a healthy meal.  Anecdotally, we know that drinking increase poor food choices.  It just makes sense that sense that alcohol, which suppresses frontal lobe inhibition, would increase eating less healthy food choices and more yummy but unhealthy calorie-dense junk food.  We suspect this is true based on experience, but today we have research proof.    

New research presented at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting in 2019 suggests that a circuit in the brain could be one reason why heavy drinking and cravings for munchies might be linked[1].  This finding is important because it might explain why Obesity and alcoholism may have a behavioral and biological link.  The two disorders are the most common chronic disorders in the United States, and any connection we find might go far toward better finding treatments.  Even without finding a treatment, knowing that there is a link may help us avoid grazing on diets high in fat or binge alcohol when we are trying to lose weight.  

According to the press release, the research team studied eating and drinking patterns of three groups of early adult male mice to investigate whether alcohol consumption affects the same areas of the brain that control overeating.  The investigators randomly placed the mice on three diets.  One group had continuous access to a high-fat diet, but limited access to alcohol (high-fat diet).  The second group followed a standard rodent diet and the same limited access to the alcohol (normal diet).  The third group had limited access to both the high-fat diet—with a regular diet during non-access periods—and the alcohol beverage (binge diet). 

The researchers found that binge diet group showed a weight-gain and -loss cycle associated with binge eating. Those mice also drank more alcohol than water during their access period, showing a clear preference for alcohol. The other groups drank less alcohol than the binge diet group. Although the correlation in humans is not known, it is suspect that the results are similar because we have similar brain circuitry.  

The bottom line:  Foods high in fat promotes binge-like eating patterns, and it appears that alcohol does the same.  We make poor food choices when drinking.  I would recommend that you avoid alcohol when dieting.  This post was the perfect article after the college basketball championship last night.   I would like to see this research done on college kids and not mice or rats.  


“American Physiological Society > New Study Explains Why Drinking Alcohol Causes the Munchies,” American Physiological Society, 09-Apr-2019. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 09-Apr-2019]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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