There is a reason why people say whiskey is liquid sunshine. Most people enjoy a shot of their favorite whiskey in a night out or just a glass of whiskey after dinner as a digestif. Whichever it is for you, might this be the reason you are gaining a few extra pounds? Does whiskey make you fat? Let’s try to find out.
What Is Whiskey?
Whiskey is a grain alcohol that is pretty much made and consumed all over the globe. This distilled alcoholic drink is made by fermentation of different grain mash types such as wheat, barley, maize, rye, and buckwheat. The grain used to make the whiskey, the method of fermentation, the storage location, the container it is stored in, and the amount of time it is stored determines the whiskey’s taste (flavor) and color (appearance). It is for this reason that various whiskeys appear and taste different. For example, Jack Daniels tastes different from Jameson or Johnny Walker.
Although whiskey is consumed all over the world, it traces its roots to medieval Scotland and Ireland. The name whiskey roughly translates to “water of life” in Gaelic. As we’ve mentioned before, whiskey comes in different variants, all based on their production, and that’s why you have drinks like single malt, scotch range, rye, and bourbon.
Drinking whiskey comes with both benefits and risks. In order to enjoy more of the benefits than the risks, scientists and health experts across the globe recommend drinking whiskey in small amounts or moderation.
Is Whisky Good For You?
As mentioned above, drinking whiskey in moderation comes with numerous benefits, and hence it is wise to keep the intake to small amounts. With that said, here are some benefits of drinking whiskey:
Lowers Risk Of Dementia
Dementia is a collective term that describes various symptoms of cognitive declines, such as forgetfulness. Taking whiskey in moderation shows to help lower the risk of dementia.
A study on the alcohol consumption and risk of dementia in older adults was done to provide scientific evidence on this (8). The study grouped the participants into 4 different groups. One group had people who took less than 1 alcoholic drink every week, the second group had people who took 1-6 alcoholic drinks every week, the third group had people who took 7-13 alcoholic beverages weekly, and the last group had people who took 14 or more drinks weekly. The individuals used for the study were 65 years and older as they are at a higher risk of dementia than younger people. The participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. The study aimed to see the odds of dementia, ascertained by detailed neurological and neuropsychological examinations according to average alcohol consumption (liquor [whiskey], wine, and beer).
The results showed that the group of people who took less than 1 alcoholic beverage every week had 0.65 odds of getting dementia (8). The people in the second group who took 1-6 alcoholic beverages had a 0.46 odds of getting dementia, while the people in the third group had 0.69 odds of getting dementia. The people who took 14 drinks or more weekly had 1.22 odds of getting dementia (8).
From the results, one can conclude that moderate consumption of whiskey, which is 1-6 alcoholic beverages weekly, reduced the risk of dementia compared to heavy consumption of whiskey, which showed greater odds of dementia (8). It is important to know that 1 alcoholic drink is equivalent to 14g of alcohol at baseline. We don’t want you taking 1-6 bottles of whiskey weekly and saying you are drinking in moderation.
Helps With Colds
Nobody likes colds as they make life unbearable; the constant sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing, and the general discomfort associated with them. Having colds was made even worse by the pandemic as people think you have COVID-19 every time you cough or sneeze in a public place. Well, whiskey helps with the relief of some of the cold symptoms. You may ask how. If you have a cold and take whiskey, it helps temporarily widen your blood vessels (1). The widening of blood vessels helps clear the mucus in your chest and sinuses, making the cold somehow bearable.
Aids In Digestion
Whiskey is a well-known digestif, and that’s why most people take a glass after supper just before they go to sleep. It helps with digestion due to its alcohol content which is responsible for stimulating the production of pepsin. Pepsin is an enzyme in the stomach that is responsible for the digestion of proteins into polypeptides (2).
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Can Be Taken By People With Diabetes
Diabetes is a medical condition that diminishes the body’s ability to process glucose. There are three major types of diabetes; type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. People with diabetes can’t take sugar, and hence things like candies and chocolates are out of the picture. Whiskey works for people with diabetes because it has no sugar. One ounce of whiskey, which approximately has 70 calories, contains no sugar at all (6).
Whiskey does not have sugar because it gets all its calories from alcohol. This only applies to plain whiskey. If you make a cocktail out of the whiskey, you are likely to add sweeteners like brown sugar, and these sweeteners have sugar in them. Thus, the lack of sugar in whiskey makes it a viable drink for people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, before you take whiskey, it would be wise to consult a health expert first so that you can know if it is okay for you to take whiskey and how much you should take. As we said earlier, you can only enjoy the benefits of whiskey if you drink in moderation.
Decreases The Risk Of Cardiovascular Conditions
Moderate consumption of alcohol is said to reduce the risk of various cardiovascular conditions like heart failure. Some researchers found this to be true after they examined 14,629 individuals (3). Of the tested individuals, 42% were abstainers, 19% were former drinkers, 25% reported to be taking up to 7 alcoholic beverages in a week, 8% reported to be taking somewhere between 7 to 14 drinks a week, 3% reported to be taking between 14 to 21 drinks in a week, and yet another 3% reported to be taking more than 21 drinks in a week.
The study proved the people taking up to 7 drinks a week had a reduced risk of heart failure relative to abstainers (3). This is from the fact that moderate drinking reduces overall mortality mainly by reducing the risk reduction of cardiovascular outcomes, particularly those related to coronary artery disease.
Is Whiskey Bad For You?
Just like most things in this world, whiskey also comes with its list of cons. Most of it is directly related to heavy consumption, which is why it is always advisable to drink in moderation. With that said, here are some risks associated with drinking whiskey:
It is no surprise that expectant mothers are advised to stay away from whiskey and alcohol altogether. This is because alcohol intake can affect the child’s growth and may result in health complications in the future. Apart from that, alcohol intake during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriages, premature birth, and fetal alcohol syndrome (10). These are some of the reasons expectant mothers should not drink whiskey.
Drunk drivers cause most road accidents. If you read on all alcohol bottles, you will see a warning against drinking and driving or operating heavy machinery. This is because alcohol impairs your judgment; hence you can’t see things as they really are. You may see a car that is 5 meters away as being 15 meters away. Apart from affecting your judgment, alcohol is likely to make you doze off, which can also cause accidents on the road. It is always advisable to leave your vehicle at home if you are going for a night of drinking with your friends or if you went in your car, it is better to leave your car there and call a taxi to take you home than to drive and end up causing an accident.
Chronic alcohol consumption is known to cause liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring of the liver, and it is caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions like hepatitis and chronic alcoholism (5). Its symptoms include fatigue, nausea, easily bleeding or bruising, yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes, redness in the palms of your hands, fluid accumulation in your abdomen, swelling in your legs, feet, or ankles, among others (5). If you have any of the mentioned symptoms, it would be wise to see a doctor for an examination. To reduce the risk of liver cirrhosis, you should take whiskey in moderation.
Whiskey Nutrition Facts
Whiskey gets most of its calories from its alcohol content. Most whiskeys have an alcohol content of between 40% to 50%. One shot of whiskey contains (7):
- Calories: 70-72
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Whiskey is also a good source of various micronutrients such as phosphorus, thiamine, zinc, iron, and niacin. It contains ellagic acid that is known to help with dark patches on one’s face, memory, and thinking skills. It also prevents the growth of cancer cells (10).
Does Whiskey Make You Fat?
Compared to other alcoholic beverages like wine and beer, whiskey is better suited for people on a diet. Whiskey works both sides of the scale when it comes to weight; it can promote weight gain and weight loss.
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How Whiskey Promotes Weight Gain?
The key to losing weight is burning more calories than you take in. Whiskey promotes weight gain in that it allows the intake of empty calories. Empty calories are calories that have little or no benefit to the body. As we said earlier, 35 milliliters of whiskey contains 72 calories. If your daily intake is 1,400 calories, if you take 35 milliliters of whiskey, you’ve just added 70 calories to your daily calorie intake, thus promoting weight gain. Let’s be honest, there is no way you can just take 35 milliliters of alcohol, and hence the more you take, the more empty calories in your body and hence weight gain.
Apart from empty calories, whiskey promotes appetite and increases hunger. A study was done on mice that proves this to be true, and the same is said to be true to humans according to the scientists who carried out the study (4). The mice that were tested in the study were given large amounts of alcohol for three days. It was seen that alcohol increased the activity in the neurons that are fired when your body experiences starvation. They also ate more than they would normally consume (4).
Thus just like the mice, alcohol increases your appetite, and you find yourself eating more than you would normally do. This results in you taking in more calories than you normally would, resulting in weight gain. It goes without saying, when you are drunk, you don’t have time to make a healthy meal with the necessary vegetables and all other foods that are good for your body. You’ll find yourself ordering fast foods and buying junk food, and all these help deter weight loss as they contain unhealthy fats and added sugars.
How Whiskey Promotes Weight Loss?
Most people would like to continue drinking even though they are on a diet. If you fall into this group of people, then drinking whiskey is the way to go. Whiskey helps with weight loss from the fact that it contains zero fats, zero carbohydrates, and zero sugar. Yes, you read that right. This makes it less likely to promote weight gain since it does not contain fats or carbs that will be stored, hence promoting weight loss. It is also a better alcoholic beverage for people with diabetes since it has no sugars. It also contains ellagic acid, which helps reduce inflammation and lower the risk of obesity (10). Those are some of the ways whiskey can help promote weight loss.
Which Alcohol Should You Drink When On A Keto Diet?
Being on a keto diet is hard enough as it is, and hence any more restrictions would make the diet unbearable. The keto diet forces the body to use fats for energy by consuming less than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. When the body notices it does not have enough carbohydrates to provide it with the necessary energy, it starts breaking down fats into energy in the liver in a process referred to as ketosis.
If you are on a keto diet, it means that you want to go for alcoholic beverages that have little to no carbs; lucky for you, most hard liquors contain little or no carbs at all (9). Whiskey and vodka are good examples of hard liquor. Hard liquor is made from natural sugars like grains and potatoes, however, during the process of fermentation and distillation, the natural sugars are converted to ethyl alcohol, and thus the reason hard liquors contain no carbohydrates or sugar.
Drinking liquor is also known to deepen your level of ketosis but slows down weight loss in the process. Hard liquor affects the liver’s metabolism in that the more you take, the more ketones the liver produces, hence deepening your ketosis level (9).
The Bottom Line
Does whiskey make you fat? Compared to other alcoholic drinks, whiskey works better when it comes to weight loss. This is due to the fact that it has no carbs, fats, and sugars, and all its calories come from alcohol. Although whiskey is made from natural sugars, during the process of fermentation and distillation, the sugars are converted into ethyl alcohol, thus the reason it does not have sugar, carbs, or fats. The same cannot be said for other alcoholic beverages like beer which contains some carbs.
When whiskey is looked at individually and not being compared to other alcoholic beverages, it does promote weight gain in a few ways. One way is by increasing the number of empty calories you consume, the second way is by increasing hunger and appetite, and as a result, you end up eating more than you would normally take. Whiskey comes with several benefits like helping with digestion, lowering the risk of dementia, helping with colds, and decreasing the risk of various cardiovascular conditions. It is important to remember that excessive consumption is harmful to your health, and hence you should drink in moderation.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Reasons Drinking Whisky Is Healthy For You (2017, forbes.com)
- 8 Scientific Studies That Prove Whiskey is Good for You (n.d., coolmaterial.com)
- Alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (2015, academic.oup.com)
- Alcohol flips brain into hungry mode (2017, bbc.com)
- Cirrhosis (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Does Drinking Hard Alcohol Help With Weight Loss? (2019, livestrong.com)
- How Many Calories in Whiskey (n.d., weightlossresources.co.uk)
- Prospective study of alcohol consumption and risk of dementia in older adults ( 2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Ketogenic Diet and Alcohol (2020, ruled.me)
- Whiskey: Is It Good For You? (n.d., webmd.com)