Why too much booze is bad news for your waistline

MEMORIES of splitting headaches, bleary eyes and wanting to be hit by a bus spring to mind when our minds wander to hangovers past.

But one health expert warns too many nights on the bottle will cause a different kind of hangover - the kind where your flabby gut hangs over your belt.

Professor Colin Binns from the Curtin University School of Public Health said it came down to a simple equation of what goes in and what comes out.

More often than not, the prior outweighs the latter.

"You cannot beat the laws of thermo-dynamics," he said.

"If you take in energy and convert it to fat, unless you burn it doing exercise you will put on weight.

"It's simply a matter of energy in and energy out. Anything leftover becomes obesity."

Prof Binns said consuming vast amounts of energy had never been so easy in Australia, and tipping the scales towards gluttony was a simple mistake to make.

"If you are always taking 1-2% in excess, you might only put on a kilo or so every year," he said.

"But in 20 years you will be 20kg heavier.

"That probably really only amounts to one Mars bar or a can of beer over a week.

"And when you're in that social context, you tend to have one extra."

The question of whether alcohol intake affects obesity remains a hot one, with some researchers finding obesity to have too many factors to conclusively attribute drinking as one of its causes.

However the vast majority agree drinking in moderation is important for good health.

Researchers Gregory Traversy and Jean-Philippe Chaput's 2015 article Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update said there were about 30 kilojoules of energy per gram of alcohol.

"Despite the important limitations of current studies, it is reasonable to say that alcohol intake may be a risk factor for obesity in some individuals," the paper said.

Prof Binns said the only realistic way to curb widespread alcohol over-consumption was to apply massive taxes to it, like Australia has done with cigarettes.

"But look at the way the wine industry lobbied about the GST, and got all sorts of exemptions," he said.

"It is a very powerful group.

"If I was younger, I would be more enthusiastic.

"But having spent a lifetime in the nutrition and public health fields, I'm a bit sceptical about how easy it would be."

He rejected the notion of personal choice - the concept it is not society's business if someone wants to lead an unhealthy lifestyle.

"Personal choice ends up costing you and me, because we can get obese but then we double our chance of being admitted to hospital in an emergency," he said.

"All taxpayers must bear that burden.

"We're Australian citizens, and being Australian we can't bear to see anybody left in the street dying because they can't afford to pay for hospital care.

"It's not you who pays, it's the rest of us. That's what libertarians forget.

"Mineral water. That's the answer."


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