Conventional wisdom states that the cause of a “beer belly” maybe just that: the alcohol in beer. Recent advertisements for low-carbohydrate beer,however, would like us to believe it is really the calories from carbohydrate and not the alcohol that increases our girth. Although it is true that excess calories cause weight gain, it is also true that alcohol intake can slow fat metabolism.In the early 1990s, a group of well-known energy metabolism researchers from Switzerland found that when alcohol was either added to the diet or substituted for other foods, 24-hour fat utilization decreased by nearly 33 percent in both cases. Carbohydrate and protein metabolism were not affected. 

Energy expenditure was slightly increased (by 7 and 4 percent) but was not elevated enough to offset the effect of alcohol on fat balance. Although the researchers concluded that habitual consumption of ethanol in excess of energy needs favors fat storage and weight gain, the amount of alcohol used in the study (96 grams) was quite a bit higher than one would consume in a five-ounce (145 ml) glass of wine with dinner (16 grams). The effects of just one glass of wine or a microbrew, however,are not known. Nonetheless, other reasons to limit alcohol are that it may promote snacking and reduce your body’s ability to store muscle glycogen.

Try Vinegar 

Research is preliminary, but given that vinegar can enhance the flavor of many vegetables and vegetarian dishes, adding it to your diet may be worth a try. Swedish researchers recently found that consuming vinegar as part of a meal reduces the body’s insulin response to carbohydrate and increases feelings of satiety following that meal. In this study, researchers had volunteers consume three different amounts of vinegar on different days in random order, the highest amount being two to three tablespoons (30-45 ml) along with 50 grams of high glycemic carbohydrate from white bread. The researchers found that the higher the vinegar intake the greater the effects on dose response.

Although these findings deserve follow-up, they suggest that adding vinegar to your meals may help you eat less and reduce cravings brought on by sugar peaks after meals. Try a vinegar and olive oil dressing on fresh greens. Drizzle it on top of cooked greens,legumes, or legume-based soups, or use it in pasta salads and rice dishes. Also,create a beverage by mixing a few tablespoons of a flavorful vinegar, such as raspberry, with plain or seltzer water. Vinegar-based drinks have recently taken off in Japan, owing to beliefs in their medicinal properties. Although vinegar is not likely to be the be-all and end-all for promoting weight loss, adding a bit to your meals may keep you on track and may also help boost iron absorption.