The French might be onto something a daily glass of wine may actually be good for your waistline, researchers in the US have found.
A long-term study of nearly 20,000 American women found that those who enjoyed a glass of wine or two a day put less weight on than their teetotalling counterparts.
The study suggests that the body processes kilojoules from alcohol in a different way to those in food, using them as energy, rather than storing them as fat so if a small glass of wine is consumed instead of a calorific food, it will result in less stored energy.
Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital studied survey data from 19,220 participants in the long-running Women's Health Study. The researchers examined the drinking habits of women over the age of 39 who had a normal body mass index (18.5 to 25). Their weight gain and measurements was then monitored for the next 13 years.
All of the women inevitably gained weight, however the four in 10 who abstained from alcohol became overweight or obese, researchers found.
Surprisingly, those who gained the least amount of weight were those who enjoyed alcohol in moderation around a glass of wine or two a day.
But not all alcohol was deemed equal say researchers, red wine was considered to be kinder to the waistline than beer or spirits.
The researchers cautioned not to take these findings as a license to drink, however.
"We don't recommend people start drinking," the lead author of the study, Dr Lu Wang, told the Los Angeles Times. "All we found is that for women who are normal weight and already drink, they can keep their drinking habit without fear of gaining more weight. But be sure to keep the amount light to moderate, exercise regularly and eat healthy. All of those factors will help you to maintain weight."
The results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.