Alcohol and Women

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March 14, 2010
Dear Editor,
I am writing in response to your March 8, 2010 article entitled, Study: Women Who Drink Are Less Likely to Gain Weight. You go on to explain that a study was done on over 19,000 women over a thirteen year period. This means you studied approximately 1,400 women each year, which may not be a significant sample size. Unfortunately for the average, naive, woman reader, you describe how alcohol will not likely cause her to gain weight. You say all of this at the beginning of the article, and save the important things for the end of the article, after the woman has already been told not to worry about the extra calories from alcohol.
While you state that alcohol may slightly increase a woman's chance of breast cancer, you do not go into detail about the other effects it may have on her body. Even through the title of your article, you seem to be advocating alcohol to the female population. If you want to do this, I suggest you also examine some negative effects that alcohol may cause. A study done by Wuethrich (2001), found that alcohol has greater long and short term effects on a woman's brain. It has been shown that females lose 15-20% more neurons in the brain due to alcohol than males do. (Wuethrich, 2001). It has also been shown that women may lose more grey and white matter in the brain. This causes the brain to shrink (Harper, et al, 1990). Therefore, while you state that women may not gain weight from continuously drinking alcohol in moderation, you seem to have overlooked a very important object that allows a human to live--her brain.
Additionally, the language you use in your article seems to target younger women. This is a problem because younger women typically have faster metabolisms, which may explain the lack of weight gain. Also, a study done by Fuchs, et al (1995) states that benefits of light to moderate drinking will usually only benefit women once they are age 50 or older. This may be a result of reducing the effects of cardiovascular disease that women typically see at this age. Therefore, I think you need to re-examine the language you use in your article in order to successfully target all age groups.
Overall, I think your study may show somewhat significant results regarding weight gain and caloric intake in females, but you have overlooked some necessary background information regarding alcohol. Next time you should reconsider your article title, as well as the information you give to or withhold from your reader.

Thank you.

Fuchs, C.S., Stampfer, M.J., & Colditz, G.A. (1995). Alcohol consumption and mortality in women. The New England Journal of Medicine, 332(19), 1245-1250.

Harding, A. (2010). Study: Women Who Drink Are Less Likely To Gain Weight. Yahoo!news March 2010.

Harper, C.G., Smith, N.A., Kril, J.J. (1990). The effects of alcohol on the female brain: a neuropathological study. Oxford Journal of Medicine, 25(5), 445-448.

Wuethrich, B. (2001). Does alcohol damage female brains more? Science Science United States, 291(5511), 2077-2079.

6 Replies

  • This is a very interesting article taking a look at a variety of alcholic effects on women. I think it is interesting that the definition of "moderation" is not clearly stated. I agree that it is important that the information portrayed in this article needs to be stated in a clearer manner, because if a woman with a lower education reads this they may not understand the caloric effects or anatomy of the brainand just take the benefits into account because they are so strongly emphasized in the article. In my opinion, articles such as these need to be written with the average woman in mind, making sure that she can understand all of the scientific language being used.

  • This article brings up a very interesting topic. Women who drink often may "feel" skinnier because in fact Alcohol is a very high calorie drink that makes people feel more full and not eat as much. It can also have to oposite effect in that in some cases people may tend to pig out even more while they are intoxicated because they are not aware or their body is telling them conflicting things. Also the health affets that alcohol has on woman is not worth the positive or negative weight gains that some may think they have. Articles have expressed numerous accounts of cancer and other heart problems due to the consumption of alcohol, so is the weight loss worth it in the long run?
    SOme woman may also think they are losing weight because they consume so much they then throw it all up. Is that a healthy way to lose weight? Not at all, so I think that these studies need to look at the long term effects maybe 30-50 years down the road.

  • Interesting analysis of the article. Definitely showed that you critically reflected on this author's writing and I agree. I think too often in the media in general, author's take advantage of our short attention spans and front load the article with fun facts that pad their point and wait for the end of the article to present the facts and scientific research. Good critique of a controversial article.

  • Great analysis of the article. I feel as though there is a lot of research out there on drinking and in the college atmosphere sometimes it is overlooked. I know some girls that say that they are going to 'drink' their calories when they go out drinking. This to me sounds rediculous do to the fact that with nothing in their stomaches they are going to get drunk quickly and have no base to drink on. I think you bringing up the fact that obviously women need their brains to live just like men is a great argument. Some people over look that when they go out drinking and really don't bother to care.

  • I think that your response was very appropriate. I'm sort of frustrated that the basis of the article on women and alcohol was about weight. I think that because the media places so much emphasis on the size of a female, that this tends to overshadow things that are way more important such as their intelligence. I definately think that your critique of the article was very good, and I appreciate that you took the time to address these more important issues.

  • I take this article kind of like a catch 22. Is it really possible for women to drink more and not gain weight? In a lot of alcoholic beverages, the amount of calories is a lot for what you are actually consuming and drinking. My personal opinion is that drinking alcohol and less likely to gain weight is too good to be true, unless they are able to burn more calories than they take in.

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