Women who drink a couple of glasses of red wine, beer or spirits a day are better at keeping the pounds off than women who do not drink at all, according to a study published on Monday.
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 around 13 years.
The largest single group - 7,346 women or just over 38 percent - said they didn't drink a drop, according to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association.
The second biggest group - 6,312 women or nearly a third of those surveyed - reported drinking the equivalent of around a third of a five-ounce glass of wine or a third of a 12-ounce beer. They did not explain how they managed to do so.
Twenty percent of the women said they drank the equivalent of up to a glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or a single-shot drink made with 80-proof spirits, while six percent said they had up to two drinks a day and three percent 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 study found.
The authors 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 five-ounce (150 ml) glass of wine, 12- ounce beer or one mixed drink made with a single, 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof alcohol all contain around 14 grams of pure alcohol and are considered "standard drink sizes" in the US, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).