What’s the best alcohol to drink when you’re trying to lose weight?

Any alcohol is the best alcohol, because people who drink weigh less than those who don’t. Unbelievable? Maybe, but researchers at Texas Tech University Health Services Centre studied 8 000 regular drinkers and found that those who downed a daily drink were 54 percent less likely to have a weight problem than teetotallers, regardless of what type of alcohol they drank.

The scientists aren’t sure why alcohol has this effect, because, as evidenced by the etymology of the beerbelly, alcohol is a kilojoule-dense substance. One explanation might be that “the body doesn’t metabolise alcohol efficiently, so the kilojoules from a couple of drinks are less likely to pad your waist than an equal number of food kilojoules,” says endocrinologist Michael Lee. What the researchers know for certain, however, is that consuming three or more drinks has the opposite effect. That’s when the kilojoules start adding up, says the study’s lead author, Dr Ahmed Arif.

So, if you partake of round three, surrender your keys and remember this maxim: “The blander the drink, the better it is for your waistline,” says dietician Lona Sandon. Opt for a clear spirit like vodka, gin or rum – all of which have about 380 kilojoules per jigger – mixed with a zero kilojoule mixer like soda or tonic water (see “More Potent Than You Think”, page 18, for a kilojoule breakdown of popular drinks).

And think twice before ordering a light beer: “The kilojoule saving over regular beer isn’t significant – around 80 to 130 per bottle,” says Dr Lee. Another reason to avoid that third drink: binge drinking lowers the body’s ability to burn fat by up to 33 percent, giving the accompanying meal all the more sticking power. “It also suppresses the hormones that tell you to stop eating,” says Sandon, which means you’re more likely to eat a handful of chips and wolf ice cream when you get home.