According to a recent study the type of alcohol you consume may determine how hungry you feel afterwards. In other words, the intensity of your “munchies” is different for wine, beer or spirits.
A recent study shows that while alcohol has a specific effect on the body, the additional nutritional content of white wine, red wine and beer also affects how our body responds to alcohol.
Research psychologist and lead author Dr Anna Kokavec, says to understand the effect of different alcoholic beverages her team measured the influence they have on the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.
The HPA axis regulates fluctuations in the body, and is responsible for the synthesis of the steroid hormones cortisol and dehyrdoepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), says Kokavec.
“The HPA axis is a system that has an input into nearly everything in the body.”
Kokavec says DHEAS and cortisol, commonly known as a stress hormone, influence our appetite and are associated with learning and memory formation.
“We need a sufficient release of cortisol to make us feel hungry,” she says
According to the study both hormones are affected when we drink alcohol, and that low levels “could lead to specific cognitive impairment if alcohol is consumed on a regular basis.”
The researchers divided participants into four groups. Each drank either red wine, white wine, light beer or regular beer.
Kokavec says the levels of cortisol decreased in all participants upon consuming alcohol. This reduced their desire for food, despite having fasted for half a day.
“One of the biggest problems we have with alcohol is that appetite is reduced, and most alcoholics present with malnutrition,” she says.
But Kokavec was surprised to find that DHEAS levels fluctuated, depending on what type of alcohol the participant consumed.
In the participants who drank beer the levels of DHEAS initially dropped, but then went up.
According to Kokavec, this is because beer contains carbohydrates, which increases the level of insulin in the blood.
She says insulin has an antagonistic relationship with DHEAS – as insulin increases so does DHEAS. The result is an eventual increase in hunger.
“Beer completely confuses the system.”
Kokavec says red wine has a slightly different effect on the body.
“Red wine fools the body into thinking it’s eating, so cortisol and DHEAS levels go down.”
But she says the body starts to recognise that red wine isn’t a food and DHEAS and cortisol levels rise, increasing appetite.
Kokavec says, unlike beer and red wine, white wine completely shuts down the HPA axis, meaning DHEAS levels don’t recover and hunger remains low.
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