Alcohol, Appetite and Loss of Restraint

Curr Obes Rep. 2015 Mar;4(1):99-105. doi: 10.1007/s13679-014-0130-y.


Alcoholic beverages have long been associated with feasts, celebration and marking special events. Today, it is commonplace to consume alcoholic beverages before, with and/or after a meal. Alcohol provides additional pleasure to the meal and enhances appetite. However, consuming an alcoholic beverage with or before a meal is associated with poor short-term energy compensation; energy from alcohol is additive to total energy intake with the added property of stimulating further eating. Limiting alcohol intake is an obvious means to reduce total energy intake for those who wish to lose weight. However, dieters and restrained eaters drink more and report greater binge drinking than unrestrained eaters despite employing cognitive strategies to reduce their intake. Increased intake may be attributable to greater attentional bias to alcohol related cues as well as to food cues, since these are more salient to those limiting intake. Alcohol increases energy intake in dieters, in part due to abandonment of restraint (disinhibition) and consumption of forbidden items including alcohol exacerbates attempts to resist temptation. Paradoxically, links between binge drinking or increased drinking frequency to overweight and obesity may be mediated by dietary restraint. Efforts to limit food and alcohol intake for weight control appear to be unsuccessful and have the net effect of promoting overconsumption. The potential role of restrained eating in the association between alcohol, appetite and obesity has been overlooked by much of the current research and further investigation of this is therefore warranted.

Keywords: Alcohol; Appetite; Cognitive restraint; Disinhibition; Obesity; Restrained eating.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Appetite*
  • Cues
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Eating / psychology
  • Energy Intake / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Meals
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / psychology


  • Ethanol