Dose-dependent effects of alcohol on appetite and food intake

Physiol Behav. 2004 Mar;81(1):51-8. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2003.12.017.


To examine the potential dose-response effect of alcohol on appetite and food intake, 12 males attended the laboratory on three occasions. On each occasion, they were given a standard breakfast, then lunch 3 h later, and dinner, 4 h after that. Thirty minutes before lunch, Ss received 330 ml of no-alcohol lager (263 kJ: no-alcohol condition), the same amount of lager spiked with 1 unit (1 UA: 8 g ethyl alcohol, 498.2 kJ) or 4 units of alcohol (4 UA: 32 g ethyl alcohol, 1203.8 kJ). Visual analogue scale (VAS) ratings of appetite and mood were recorded before and after preloads and lunch, then hourly across the day. Intake at lunch (excluding energy from the preload) was significantly higher following 4 UA (5786+/-991 kJ) compared to 1 UA (4928+/-1245 kJ). Participants consumed more high-fat salty food items at lunch following 4 UA compared to the other preloads. Hunger was rated higher following 4 UA across the day in comparison to the other preloads, but fullness ratings failed to reflect any difference by condition. Energy intake at dinner was similar in all conditions and total energy intake across the day was significantly higher after 4 UA (14,615+/-1540 kJ) than after 1 UA (13,204+/-2156 kJ). In conclusion, above a certain threshold, alcohol appears to stimulate appetite in part, due to elevated levels of subjective hunger. When this occurs, energy intake is not reduced at subsequent meals. Thus, alcohol may contribute to positive energy balance via its additive effects to total energy intake and by short-term appetite stimulation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Appetite / drug effects*
  • Appetite Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Eating / psychology
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Food Preferences / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hunger / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Satiety Response / drug effects


  • Appetite Stimulants
  • Ethanol