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Alcohol and Weight Gain and the Fun we had the other side of the Wall!

My family went to Cabo, Mexico for our summer vacation this year. As one of Mike’s, my husband, souvenir shirt purchase says,  “It’s more fun this side of Trump’s Wall”. In more ways than one it is definitely more fun! Viva, Mexico! For our family, the unique experiences we’ve had has been made in Mexico. A few years back, we had the magical experience of chasing and swimming with whale sharks in Cancun.


https://vimeo.com/340461706


If you ever do one in Cancun, would highly recommend Ocean Tours. Very knowledgeable, memorable and personable guides! Also, would highly recommend that you take the “meclizina” or meclizine, when offered to prevent seasickness. It will definitely ruin the experience if you get seasick.

In March of this year, we were on an ocean safari tour. Which, due to a little bit of confusion on our end, swam with blue sharks, seeking and attracting them on purpose. Who does that?!

Latitude Encounters, for one.

https://www.latitudeencounters.com/


Amazing group of  people who will earn your trust with their knowledge and expertise, that you willingly go in the water with sharks despite a lifetime of conditioning not to!

And just this past week, we had the amazing opportunity to swim with a pod of mobula rays!

It has definitely been more fun this side of the wall in that regard.

People from our side of the wall have been known come to Mexico to indulge in alcohol. As far as the teenagers who came with us on this trip are concerned, they have particularly noted that the legal drinking age is 18, and has made a mental note to come back when they do turn 18. We did witness some partying of spring breakers in Cabo in March. And, it is a sight to behold to the uninitiated. This mom’s mental note is to highly discourage my future college teenager to come to Cabo during spring break!


Mexico, as I have learned on our tequila tasting tour, produces 500+ million liters of tequila each year. I, myself, bought a bottle from this tour. Couldn’t help myself after 4 mini shots!

There is definitely something about Mexico that makes one throw caution to the wind. Just at the hotel we were at, had two happy hour periods! I took note that it is at 12-1pm at the restaurant and 3-4 pm poolside! And why not? We’re on vacation! Anyway, although I did drink more than usual than any other time during the year, it probably was 1 margaritas per day (Which, you should know is an underestimation, because as years of being in primary care has taught me, most people will minimize their drinking. Ha! Apparently, including me. It’s all good, I am just being human!) My body already does protest at that amount. It tells me it’s a little bit inflamed, my brain is just a tad foggier, and it takes me a little bit longer to fall asleep. And as vacation weight gain happens, alcohol could be one of the contributing factors.

Here’s why.

  1. Alcohol is high in calories. In terms of calories per gram, we know that protein has 4, carbs has 4, fat has 9. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. So in itself it already is calorie heavy. Add on the sugars that come along with a cocktail and it will definitely sneak in unwanted calories if you were in the practice of keeping track of calories to lose or maintain weight.

  2. Alcohol consumption leads to overeating. While the widely accepted explanation of loss of inhibition by alcohol lead to increased food consumption, there is even a less known biological explanation. In the hypothalamus, where some of the feeding circuit occur, there are neurons called Agrp that only gets activated with starvation state that produces intense hunger - hence the tendency to overeat when we reach this stage. A study finds that alcohol actually activates these neurons. This study were done in mice, so the societal link of alcohol and food is absent. I know. My mind is blown too.

  3. Alcohol consumption increases stress hormones particularly cortisol. Stress increases cortisol, and high cortisol levels cause weight gain over time. And high cortisol can also cause an inflammatory response. Hence, my inflamed state mentioned above.

  4. Alcohol can contribute to poor sleep. Poor sleep over time can cause weight gain. Here’s how. Alcohol reduces the body’s natural production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for our circadian rhythm or our sleep-wake cycle. Research has shown that consuming alcohol an hour before bedtime can reduce melatonin production by nearly 20%. My circadian rhythm is exactly that — it is a predictable rhythm that relies on me respecting its cues. It rudely reminds me of it if I even slightly depart from my patterns. Ok, so overtime, with regular and in excess alcohol consumption can lead to insomnia, poor sleep is associated with increased cortisol production, cortisol is associated with weight gain.

Fun fact about alcohol that I never forgot since biochemistry class in medical school. Some southeast Asians genetically lack the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase that makes it difficult for them to break down alcohol. Hence, flushing, nausea and vomiting, headaches. Particular race has 30-40% prevalence, namely, Chinese, Korea and Japan. Hence, the skin flushing has been called the Asian Glow.


Having said all of the above, genetic and lifestyle factors contribute to weight gain. Light to moderate drinking (which is less than 7 drinks per week), is less associated with increased BMI and waist circumference. But if you’re wondering why you can’t lose weight despite all the the things you’re already doing, it might be a good idea to look into alcohol consumption.

I hope you enjoyed reading this week’s entry as I have enjoyed writing it! Leave me a comment below!


DISCLAIMER: Lea Famularcano, MD is a medical doctor, but she is not your doctor, and she is not offering medical advice on this website.  If you are in need of professional advice or medical care, you must seek out the services of your doctor or health care professional.

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