Diet Quality Worsens as Alcohol Intake Increases
Alcohol misuse and dietary factors independently are associated with chronic health problems. The current study of more than 15,000 U.S. adults found that increased alcoholic beverage consumption was associated with decreased diet quality. It extends previous related findings by identifying specific dietary components that worsened with increased alcohol intake. The findings underscore the importance of moderate alcohol consumption and greater awareness of healthy eating among those who drink.
Akinso: A study of more than 15,000 adults in the U.S. has found that increased alcoholic beverage consumption is associated with decreased diet quality.
Breslow: When people drank more they tended to make poorer food choices.
Akinso: Dr. Rosalind Breslow is an epidemiologist in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, and is the study's first author.
Breslow: It's important to note that our study was not designed to determine whether there was a cause and effect relationship between drinking and food choices rather we were interested in seeing what the relationship might be.
Akinso: For the study, NIAAA researchers analyzed data in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthy Eating Index. Dr. Breslow explains that as alcoholic beverage consumption increased, Healthy Eating Index scores decreased, which is an indication of poorer food choices.
Breslow: What we found was that as men and women drank more they ate less fruit, in particular less whole fruit, which is a great source of fiber, and they took in more calories from the combination of alcohol, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. In addition, the men also ate less whole grain and less whole fat milk products. So overall, big picture, drinking more was associated with a higher calorie less healthy diet.
Akinso: The 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as no more than one drink on any day for women and no more than two drinks on any day for men. She adds it is important for people to consume nutrient-dense foods, like whole fruits and whole grains that provide substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and relatively few calories. Dr. Breslow says the findings raise questions about whether the combination of alcohol and poor diet might interact to further increase health risks.
Breslow: They underscore the need to for all people to be sure to maintain a healthy nutrient dense diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains just like your mother told you. And avoid the excess calories that come from too much alcohol, unhealthy fats and added sugars.
Akinso: For more information on this study or alcohol research, visit niaaa.nih.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.