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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Patterns of alcohol drinking and its association with obesity: data from the third national health and nutrition examination survey, 1988–1994

Ahmed A Arif1* and James E Rohrer2

Author Affiliations

1 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Department of Family & Community Medicine, Division of Health Services Research, Lubbock, TX, USA

2 Mayo Clinic Family Medicine Program/Rochester, Department of Family Medicine, 406 West Main Street, Kasson MN, USA

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BMC Public Health 2005, 5:126  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-5-126

Published: 5 December 2005

Abstract

Background

Recent reports suggest that alcohol use may have a protective effect on obesity. This study explores association between obesity and alcohol consumption in the non-smoking U.S. adult population.

Methods

We analyzed data on a total of 8,236 respondents who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Body mass index (weight-kg/height-m2) was derived from measured height and weight data and categorized into: normal weight, overweight, and obese. Alcohol consumption was measured using following measures: history of drinking, binge drinking, quantity of drinks/day, frequency of drinking, and average volume of drinks/week.

Results

Mean body mass index in this sample of non-smokers was 26.4 (95% CI: 26.1, 26.7). Approximately 46% of respondents were classified as current drinkers. Current drinkers had lower odds of obesity (Adjusted odds ratio = 0.73, 95% CI: 0.55, 0.97) as compared to non-drinkers. The odds of overweight and obesity were significantly greater among binge drinkers and those consuming four or more drinks/day. However, those who reported drinking one or two drinks per day had 0.46 (95% CI: 0.34, 0.62) and 0.59 (95% CI: 0.41, 0.86) times the odds of obesity, respectively. Similarly, the odds of obesity were significantly lower among those who reported drinking frequently and consuming less than five drinks per week. The association between overweight and other alcohol measures was less pronounced.

Conclusion

The results suggest further exploring the possible role of moderate alcohol drinking in controlling body weight in adults.