- A new study simulated food and alcohol consumption typical of so-called tailgate parties to assess how binge eating and alcohol consumption are likely to affect the body.
- The researchers found that participants had increased levels of lipogenesis, or fat formation, both during and the day after the simulated “party”.
- Liver fat levels differed greatly between participants after the experiment, which led the authors to hypothesize that the amount of carbohydrates consumed by each participant might play an important role.
A recent study simulating a tailgate party found that consuming high-carbohydrate foods with relatively low alcohol consumption was linked to increases in liver fat.
“Tailgating” refers to a social event where people serve and eat food in the back of a parked vehicle, often in the parking lot of a sports stadium.
Although this tradition was not possible during the pandemic, some have continued the tradition virtually.
While tailgating can excite fans, it can also lead to overeating and drinking, which can negatively affect a person’s health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend avoiding drinking or sticking to two alcoholic beverages or less per day for men.
To study the effects of overconsumption on the body, researchers from the University of Missouri looked at physical changes after a tailgate party. Their results appear in the journal Alcohol.
The researchers had several criteria for inclusion in the study. They focused on men ages 21 to 52 with a sedentary lifestyle that included less than 3 hours of aerobics per week.
Participants were all overweight or obese with body mass indexes (BMIs) between 25.1 and 51 kilograms per square meter and a waist circumference of less than 55 inches.
The participants were non-smokers, had no diabetes, and no pre-existing thyroid or kidney disease.
For safety reasons, the participants had to report above-average alcohol consumption, which the study defined as regular alcohol consumption last year.
People who drank a lot, such as more than 16 alcoholic drinks a week, were excluded from the study.
A total of 18 men completed the research study.
In preparation for the tailgate experiment, the researchers instructed participants to swallow deuterium oxide, also known as heavy water, twice a day for 3 days before starting the study.
This enabled the scientists to determine the rates of lipogenesis, the metabolic process of fat formation.
The scientists also urged participants to eat regularly but not drink alcohol the night before the study.
On the morning of the simulated tailgate, the scientists checked the vital signs of each participant. They then took blood samples before having a light breakfast.
The researchers also used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to measure body composition.
Around 11:00 a.m., the researchers took another blood sample and encouraged participants to eat and drink for the next 5 hours. The food ranged from hamburgers to cupcakes. The team collected blood samples every hour and measured participants’ breath alcohol levels every 30 minutes to ensure they were achieving the desired level of intoxication.
In addition, 14 of the 18 participants were subjected to magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) of the liver. This gave the researchers a look at the fat content in the liver.
After the 5-hour experiment, the participants stayed in the research center. Scientists took one final blood sample in the morning, and each participant was given breakfast and was discharged as soon as their breath alcohol levels were zero.
Before the experiment, 8 of the 18 participants kept a food diary for 3 days with an average intake of 2,748 kilocalories (kcal) per day. On game day, people ate well beyond that, consuming an average of 5,087 kcal.
Divided into food groups, 32% of the total calories consumed came from carbohydrates, 35% from fat, 10% from protein and 23% from alcohol.
Alcohol consumption resulted in an average breath alcohol level of 0.08 – meaning the participants were legally intoxicated in the U.S.
When looking at changes in the body, the group showed higher plasma insulin levels after eating and drinking. Lipogenesis also increased, but overall the group showed no changes in liver fat.
“Interestingly, the current group only consumes the amount of alcohol that is consumed during [the 5 hours of eating and drinking] It was found that this is significantly related to the percentage increase [lipogenesis]Write the authors.
However, when looking at each participant who completed the MRS scan, different answers were found.
“Surprisingly, we found that in overweight men after prolonged periods of eating and drinking, the metabolic responses were inconsistent and showed significant individual differences in the ability to protect the liver from nutrient toxicity,” the authors write.
Nine participants showed an increase in liver fat, five participants showed a decrease in liver fat, and one participant showed no changes.
The individual responses prompted the researchers to divide participants into two groups based on liver fat changes. Those with lower liver fat were less likely to get their calories from food and needed more alcohol to reach the stated breath alcohol range.
Lipogenesis was the only predictor of the differences in liver fat between the two groups.
“One possible explanation for these results is that high carbohydrate consumption can have a greater impact on liver fat than alcohol in some people,” says author Dr. Elizabeth Parks.
“Given the high prevalence of excessive food and alcohol consumption in the US, more studies in a larger population are needed. Our goal is to understand the differences between people in how they react to excess food and alcohol. Limiting the amount of carbohydrates in the meal may protect the liver. “
– Dr. Elizabeth Parks
A major limitation of the study was that only men were included. Without women, a large proportion of people who do tailgating exclude.
Including women in the data analysis may have influenced the results, as women process alcohol differently than men. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women have proportionally less water in their bodies, which leads to higher blood alcohol levels after drinking.
As a result, women can be more intoxicated than men who have consumed the same amount of alcohol.
For safety reasons, the researchers also regulated how much participants are allowed to drink during the tailgate simulation. The authors acknowledge that this may not reflect drinking behavior at tailgate parties.
For example, a survey by the American Addiction Centers found that people who watch American football consume between 6.2 and 8.4 alcoholic beverages on average, well above the levels that would result in legal poisoning, with most drinks on the Stadium parking space are consumed.
The researchers wanted to understand the effects of overconsumption of food and drink using a protocol that mimicked real life. However, there are no previous academic studies showing the average food and alcohol consumption of viewers before and after sporting events.
There is also the possibility that the researchers’ interpretation of overeating did not differ from the average diet of an individual participant.
The researchers’ results suggest that the participants got their calories from the affected liver fat production.
Eating high levels of carbohydrates appeared to have a greater impact than other food groups and alcohol on increasing liver fat.
“Given the high prevalence of food and alcohol overconsumption in the United States, further studies are needed to better understand the interactions between personal consumption habits and individual metabolic fluctuations in managing excess nutrients,” the authors conclude.