Alcohol consumption and body weight

Michael T. French, Edward C. Norton, Hai Fang, Johanna Catherine Maclean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


The number of Americans who are overweight or obese has reached epidemic proportions. Elevated weight is associated with health problems and increased medical expenditures. This paper analyzes Waves 1 and 2 of the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions to investigate the role of alcohol consumption in weight gain. Alcohol is not only an addictive substance but also a high-calorie beverage that can interfere with metabolic function and cognitive processes. Because men and women differ in the type and amount of alcohol they consume, in the biological effects they experience as a result of alcohol consumption, and in the consequences they face as a result of obesity, we expect our results to differ by gender. We use first-difference models of body mass index (BMI) and alcohol consumption (frequency and intensity) to control for time-invariant unobservable factors that may influence changes in both alcohol use and weight status. Increasing frequency and intensity of alcohol use is associated with statistically significant yet quantitatively small weight gain for men but not for women. Moreover, the first-difference results are much smaller in magnitude and sometimes different in sign compared with the benchmark pooled cross-sectional estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)814-832
Number of pages19
JournalHealth Economics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Alcohol
  • BMI
  • Body weight
  • Fixed-effects
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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