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Effects of alcohol on food and energy intake in human subjects: evidence for passive and active over-consumption of energy

  • Martin R. Yeomans (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2007

The effects of alcohol on food and energy intake in human subjects have been the subject of a number of controlled studies recently. Unlike the evidence for other macronutrients, there is minimal evidence for any compensatory reduction in food intake in response to energy ingested as alcohol. In contrast, all studies testing intake within 1 h of preload ingestion report a higher intake of food following alcohol relative to energy-matched controls, although this short-term stimulatory effect is not evident if the test meal is delayed beyond 1 h. This time-course suggests that short-term stimulation of appetite may be mediated by the pharmacological action of alcohol on the appetite control system, either through enhanced orosensory reward or impaired satiety. In the long term, energy ingested as alcohol is additive to energy from other sources, suggesting that moderate alcohol consumption results in long-term passive over-consumption alongside short-term active over-consumption of energy through appetite stimulation. Despite the consistency of enhanced energy intake after moderate alcohol, evidence of an association between alcohol in the diet and obesity remains contentious, although the most recent results suggest that alcohol intake correlates with BMI. Future research needs to address this issue and clarify the mechanisms underlying appetite stimulation by alcohol.

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