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One Major Side Effect of Drinking Alcohol If You're Overweight, New Study Says

If you want to protect your health, it might be time to scale back your drinking.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

Alcohol is an undeniably mixed bag when it comes to your health. While the occasional glass of red wine may have a protective effect on your cardiovascular health, alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased risk of certain ailments, from esophageal cancer to cirrhosis of the liver.

For individuals who are overweight or obese, however, drinking alcohol may pose a particular health threat, according to a new study. A May 2021 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, in examining data from 465,437 adults between the ages of 40 and 69 over an average of 10.5 years, overweight or obese individuals were significantly more likely to develop liver health problems than their average-weight counterparts.

Individuals who drank more than the recommended amount for adults, as dictated by UK guidelines—no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, per the National Health Service (NHS)—had nearly a 600% higher risk of developing alcoholic fatty liver disease, and nearly a 700% higher risk of dying from the condition.

RELATED: Surprising Side Effects of Not Drinking Alcohol, Say Experts

"People in the overweight or obese range who drank were found to be at greater risk of liver diseases compared with participants within a healthy weight range who consumed alcohol at the same level," explained senior author and research program director Emmanuel Stamatakis, Ph.D., a professor of physical activity, lifestyle, and population health at The University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre, in a statement.

Pouring whiskey drink into glass
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However, it wasn't just excessive alcohol consumption that put overweight or obese individuals at greater risk.

"Even for people who drank within alcohol guidelines, participants classified as obese were at over 50 percent greater risk of liver disease," said Stamatakis.

Fortunately, reducing your alcohol consumption could help solve two problems at once. According to the results of an observational study conducted by the European Association for the Study of Obesity in 2020, alcohol consumption was associated with a greater risk of obesity.

"Our results suggest that the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome increases in proportion to alcohol consumption when male and female adults drink more than half a standard drink per day," the study's authors found, suggesting that cutting out those drinks may help reduce not only your weight but your future risk of liver ailments, too.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more