Women whose drinks consist of a couple of glasses of red wine, beer or spirits a day are better at keeping the kilos off than women who do not drink at all.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston asked more than 19,000, normal-weight US women aged 39 or older how many alcoholic beverages they typically drank in a day, and then tracked the women for about 13 years.

The largest single group – 7346 women or just over 38 per cent – said they didn’t drink a drop, according to the study published on Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association.

The second biggest group – 6312 women or nearly a third of those surveyed – reported drinking the equivalent of about a third of a 150ml (five ounce) glass of wine or a third of a 360ml (12 ounce) mug of beer. They did not explain how they managed to do so.

Twenty per cent of the women said they drank the equivalent of up to a glass of wine, a mug of beer, or a single-shot drink made with 80-proof spirits, while six per cent said they had up to two drinks a day and three per cent had more than two.

Over the 13-year follow-up period, the women who did not drink at all gained the most weight, and the women who had the equivalent of two drinks a day were the least likely to pack on pounds.

The best drink for keeping the pounds off was red wine, but all four types of tipple included in the study – red or white wine, beer and spirits – showed the same “inverse association between alcohol intake and risk of becoming overweight or obese”.

The authors of the study cautioned, however, against making recommendations on alcohol use as a tool against obesity, given the potential medical and psycho-social problems associated with drinking.

The women’s alcohol intake was recorded in grams of alcohol.

A 150ml glass of wine, 360ml mug of beer or one mixed drink made with a single, 45ml (1.5 ounce) shot of 80-proof alcohol all contain about 14 grams of pure alcohol and are considered “standard drink sizes” in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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