Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Nutr. 2019 Mar;121(5):481-495. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518003677. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


The relationship between alcohol consumption and body weight is complex and inconclusive being potentially mediated by alcohol type, habitual consumption levels and sex differences. Heavy and regular alcohol consumption has been positively correlated with increasing body weight, although it is unclear whether this is due to alcohol consumption per se or to additional energy intake from food. This review explores the effects of alcohol consumption on food energy intake in healthy adults. CINAHL Plus, EMBASE, Medline and PsycINFO were searched through February 2018 for crossover and randomised controlled trials where an alcohol dose was compared with a non-alcohol condition. Study quality was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project tool. A total of twenty-two studies involving 701 participants were included from the 18 427 papers retrieved. Studies consistently demonstrated no compensation for alcoholic beverage energy intake, with dietary energy intake not decreasing due to alcoholic beverage ingestion. Meta-analyses using the random-effects model were conducted on twelve studies and demonstrated that alcoholic beverage consumption significantly increased food energy intake and total energy intake compared with a non-alcoholic comparator by weighted mean differences of 343 (95 % CI 161, 525) and 1072 (95 % CI 820, 1323) kJ, respectively. Generalisability is limited to younger adults (18-37 years), and meta-analyses for some outcomes had substantial statistical heterogeneity or evidence of small-study effects. This review suggests that adults do not compensate appropriately for alcohol energy by eating less, and a relatively modest alcohol dose may lead to an increase in food consumption.

Keywords: E-beverage energy-containing beverages; N-beverage no beverage; NE-beverage beverages that contained no or negligible energy; Alcohol consumption; Food energy intake; Food intake; Systematic reviews; Total energy intake.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Energy Intake / drug effects*
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult