British Journal of Nutrition

Alcohol and the regulation of energy balance

Alcohol and the regulation of energy balance: overnight effects on diet-induced thermogenesis and fuel storage

P. R. Murgatroyda1, M. L. H. M. Van De Vena1, G. R. Goldberga1 and A. M. Prenticea1

a1 MRC Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2DH


The effect of alcohol on overnight energy expenditure and substrate disposal was studied in eleven subjects (five men, six women) using whole-body indirect calorimetry for 15·5 h after test meals. Three test meals were studied in random order with at least 48 h between treatments: control, 50% of maintenance energy needs provided as 14, 40 and 46% energy from protein, fat and carbohydrate respectively; alcohol addition, control plus 23% energy as alcohol; alcohol substitution, control with alcohol replacing 23% of carbohydrate energy. ANOVA revealed no significant sex effects. Alcoholinduced thermogenesis dissipated only 15 (SD 14)% of the alcohol energy. Alcohol addition had no significant effect on protein or carbohydrate oxidation but fat oxidation was suppressed (P < 0·0005) to an extent equivalent to storing 74 (SD 51)% of the alcohol energy as fat. Alcohol substitution reduced carbohydrate oxidation (P < 0·009) to an equivalent of 42 (SD 41)% and also spared fat (P < 0·005) to an equivalent of 59 (SD 37)% of the alcohol energy. It is concluded that alcohol has no special thermogenic capacity, and that its energy can be accounted for in a similar way to carbohydrate.

(Received December 23 1994)

(Accepted May 03 1995)