STUDIES about alcohol and weight have not always pointed in the same direction, but all have agreed that a serving of wine per day could do the body more good than harm.
When it comes to alcohol consumption, the buzz word that seems to balance the benefits and the pitfalls of this beverage is 'moderation'.
"Some of the studies show that alcohol in moderation can be helpful, but that is if it is taken as recommended," said nutritionist Patricia Fletcher. "Because alcohol carries calories, and empty calories at that, it has no real benefit as such to the dieter in terms of helping you to lose weight," she added.
Alcohol has about seven calories per gram, considered empty calories, because alcohol contains no beneficial nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Because of its caloric content, it quickly converts to sugar and lowers our inhibitions so we are inclined to drink and eat more, thereby potentially ruining any effort at weight loss.
"There is an international standard serving size for alcohol, so it's 12 ounces for a beer, four ounces for wine, and 1.5 ounces for distilled spirits," said Fletcher.
"Women should have no more than one drink in any given day and for men, it would be no more than two drinks in any given day and if they are going to be doing so, it should be no more than two to three times per week. People exceeding that standard in terms of the amount of serving sizes for the alcohol are having more than they should," the nutritionist noted.
Some alcoholic beverages are better than others in terms of their nutritional benefits and calorie content. Red wine, for example, has been lauded for its cardiovascular protection, and in some studies, moderate consumption has been linked to a lowered body mass index (BMI). Alcohol on a whole has also been found in some cases to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairments while beer in particular was found to help with the strengthening of bones.
"The French take wine with their dinner and some people have a glass of wine every day, but they don't exceed the amount," Fletcher pointed out.
"Red wine in particular has health benefits in terms of heart health and all those things. Persons have found many other health benefits with alcohol in terms of sleep and pressure," she said.
On the other hand, alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, can be detrimental to particularly pregnant women. As such, most doctors warn women to stop drinking from as early as three months before conception, as drinking could pose risks to the baby.
"During the antenatal period, the babies tend to grow less, so you'll tend to have intra-uterine growth and retardation. Also there are problems in terms of the neurological development of the baby, and so when they are born, they tend to have behavioural problems or some level of mental retardation as well, and of course their intelligence tend to also decrease," explained obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Leslie Meade.
"They also tend to have congenital abnormalities, particularly of the heart and of the skeletal system, and they tend to have some neurological development problems as well," he said.
Because drinking forms a part of the social scene, it's often hard to get away from it. It's a common feature at weddings, anniversaries and nights out with the girls or guys. If you are a dieter, it will help to know the caloric content for various alcoholic beverages. Here is a breakdown of some popular ones:
1. White wine: This contains less than one gram of carbohydrates per serving and has no fat. It is a better choice for dieters because it only contains 70 calories per serving
2. Bourbon: This is lower in calories than most other spirits and at only 64 calories per one- ounce serving, will help to preserve your waistline.
3. Light beer: The average light beer is a little more than 100 calories per 12-ounce serving.
4. Vodka: A 1.5-ounce serving could amount to a little over 100 calories.
5. White rum: You could get 104 calories per every 1.5-ounce serving.
7. Whiskey: One shot or 25 grams of whiskey is about 56 calories.
8. Pina Colada: This could pack on about 500 calories per six-ounce serving.
9. Liqueurs: This could amount to 155 calories whether it is chocolate, strawberry or peppermint.
10. Smirnoff Ice: This is about 230 calories per 12-ounce serving.