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Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet

Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet Low Carb Luxury Article Reprints
"Candy Is Dandy; But Liquor Is Quicker!"
         - Ogden Nash


Is drinking alcohol healthy or even advisable on a low-carbohydrate diet? Boy, do we hear *that* question a lot. It comes up more at the holidays and during the dawn of the Summer months - people want beer with their Barbeques; a glass of wine with their light Summer meals.

So we're going to try and answer your questions, but the caveat here is a big one - and an obvious one. Everyone is different. Different people will react differently to alcohol (and some of those will be able to incorporate wine but not beer, or vodka, but not wine.) It's a personal decision that weighs preference and sociability against health, weight loss, and progress. So read the facts, and decide.



Is Drinking Alcohol Healthy... period?

This controversial question has been addressed by dozens of studies over the years. One of the latest appeared in the September 19, 2000 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study found that drinking small amounts of alcohol was beneficial and that wine had a beneficial effect on both heart disease and cancer not seen for beer or liquor.

Over 24,000 men and women in Copenhagen, Denmark began participating in health studies from 1964 through 1976 and were followed until 1995 for this analysis. Almost 5,000 of these people died during that time. Light drinking (a drink a day or less) was associated with a 10% reduction in mortality while heavy drinking (five or more drinks daily) was associated with a 10% increase in death.

But what does this mean to you? Well, it might mean nothing at all. Not one of the participants was on a structured diet of any sort (let alone low-carb) and none had other habits taken into account (such as weight, smoking, etc.) So while we are likely to continue to see anecdotal evidence and small-study evidence of the benefits of drinking, their validity - especially where low-carbers are concerned will stay up in the air for the time being.

Our concern here, is to look at how drinking alcohol will affect our diet regime - our weight loss progress, our cravings, and our well-being.

To understand that relation, let's look at what a few of the low-carb gurus have to say on the subject (and if you're hoping they'll all agree... well, just keep hoping...)




Robert C. Atkins - the Granddaddy of them all:



"Here's the problem with all alcoholic beverages, and the reason I recommend refraining from alcohol consumption on the diet. Alcohol, whenever taken in, is the first fuel to burn. While that's going on, your body will not burn fat. This does not stop the weight loss, it simply postpones it, since the alcohol does not store as glycogen, you immediately go back into ketosis/lipolysis after the alcohol is used up.

If you must drink alcohol, wine is an acceptable addition to levels beyond the Induction diet. If wine does not suit your taste, straight liquor such as scotch, rye, vodka, and gin would be appropriate, as long as the mixer is sugarless; this means no juice, tonic water; or non-diet soda. Seltzer and diet soda are appropriate."




Drs. Michael R. and Mary Dan Eades (Protein Power)

"Can I drink alcohol on the Protein Power Plan?"

"Yes, you can! But, like with everything else, you are limited by your Carbohydrate Maximum. Dry white or red wine (3 oz.) or Miller Lite beer (12 oz.) will cost you 3 or 4 effective carb grams, but are still reasonable choices as long as you count them in your daily totals. Hard liquor will cost you a lot of empty calories. Take it easy and count those carbs! Wine-in moderation-can even help improve insulin sensitivity."




Ray Audette - Author of "NeanderThin":

"Don't Drink Alcohol"



"It is best not to consume alcohol in any amount from any source. Alcohol is a by-product of yeast digestion (the yeast equivalent of urine) and is known to damage the stomach, kidneys, and liver. Alcohol adds fat principally by producing cravings for both itself and other carbohydrates (see snack trays at any bar) and even other addictive substances (ask any former smoker.) It is almost impossible to drink alcohol and follow the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. If you must drink, do so only on special occasions (once or twice a year) and stick to alcohols derived from fruit (wine and champagne.) Be aware, however, that once you have been on the NeanderThin program for any length of time, drinking any form of alcohol could make you queasy. It is best to avoid alcohol altogether."





Okay, I could go on quoting diet doctors and authors, but I think you get the idea - they don't agree. So it will be up to you to decide how they affect YOU, YOUR weight loss, YOUR well-being, and YOUR cravings.

My personal experience has been that when I drink more often than a drink or two per month, my weight loss stalls. It's also my experience that I have sugar cravings the next day that I must deal with and my hunger levels are increased.

So weigh the pros and cons for yourself. But just in case you haven't thought of them, here's a list of "sobering" facts about alcohol that you might want to be armed with when making your decisions:


  • Alcohol depletes many nutrients, particularly zinc and magnesium.
  • Alcohol can increase the production of free radicals in the body. (Free radicals are known to be the fertile ground from which cancer springs.)


  • Alcohol can damage the liver - often seriously.
  • Alcohol damages the brain. Not just an off-hand statement. When alcohol is consumed, brain cells expire - just like with a "puff" of a cigarette.
  • When pregnant women consume alcohol, low-birth-weight babies with lower IQs often result.
  • Alcohol impairs functioning of the digestive tract.
The "Bottom Line" comes from Robert Crayhon, one of the most brilliant nutritionists I've ever known:

"Optimal nutrition is about isolating the good elements in food and getting more of those. It is also about avoiding harmful, toxic substances. Alcohol, even red wine, has some of both. If you want to be optimally healthy, you only want to accentuate the positive. You don't want to set your house on fire and turn on your sprinkler system at the same time.



Don't drink alcohol if you are doing it for health benefits. There are less toxic ways to get the benefits of the antioxidants, polyphenols, and other substances found in red wine. Fruits, vegetables, garlic, spices and herbs and supplements can give you just as much antioxidant benefit if not more. If you are interested in the protective effects of red wine polyphenols, they are available in supplement form. Alcohol's nutrient depleting effect is not what a poorly nourished society needs. Its liver weakening properties are also not needed in a country where the liver is nearly overwhelmed with all of the toxins in our environment.

Can you drink alcohol every now and then and be healthy? Yes. An occasional glass of red wine is not going to do that much damage, and does offer some benefits. If it gives you pleasure and is an important part of the way you enjoy life, it may be more unhealthy for you to abstain. Consume red wine or alcohol, however, only after considering its full spectrum of possible negative effects."


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