Scientific Nutrition Update 38: Tequila and Weight Loss (Science Reporting Sucks)

Today we get to talk about my favorite liquor, tequila.  Actually we are going to talk about how the vast majority of science reporting is absolutely worthless, but we are going to use the fact that people keep saying tequila helps with weight loss to accomplish that.  Now in episode 8 I previously discussed the health effects of alcohol and I am not going to be rehashing that here.

Script (remember I ad-lib, abbreviate, and ignore the script):

For today’s episode I am going to talk about my favorite liquor tequila, now we have already covered the health effects of alcohol in general way back in episode 8 and we are not going to rehash that today.  No, today we are focusing on a claim I have been seeing online, which is that tequila is good for weight loss.  Now this is a few old study, but for some reason it has been popping up on my feeds again, so I figured it was time for an update.  Let’s hope these headline writers are onto something and are not just making things up for clicks…. So I guess really this is an episode about how science reporting is almost universally worthless.

 

My specific issue with this is the claim they keep making that tequila is what is causing this effect.  That is not at all what the study says, and SOME of the article do make it clear that it not actually tequila, but MANY do not.

 

In order to explain the importance of this distinction here, I need to briefly discuss how tequila is made (in general, this is not specific and I am not a distiller).  Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant. The agave plant itself it a difficult plant to work with, taking many years to reach maturity before it can be used to make tequila.  The pina is then hand harvested from these plants and then cooked to convert the starch into a sugar. They are then milled so that the sugary liquid is released. These sugars are then fermented with yeast and turned into alcohol.  This is then distilled, or boiled and collected. This is then matured if it is a reposado or anejo tequila.

 

So why did I give you a lesson in tequila manufacture? Well, let’s go back to the study to answer that.  Basically the study found when mice were fed water with agavin in it which is a sugar found in the agave which is the plant that is used to make tequila and mezcal.  When the mice were fed this, they ate less, lost weight, had better insulinemic response, and better glucose levels.

 

So why can we not from that right the headline that tequila helps you lose weight?  Several reasons, 1. The way our insulin and glucose levels respond to compounds is very different from mice.  For an example of this look at the polyphenol resveratrol which is found in red wine. In mice it has incredible health effects, including improved glucose and insulin levels, in humans it does practically nothing. WE ARE NOT MICE.  I keep saying that but I feel like people are not listening. 2. Tequila is a distilled spirit. What I mean is that any agavin that was in it, is lost when it is distilled. The tequila you are drinking either has no agavins or the barest trace.

 

So why is this so important? Well because science reporting is broken.  People report on studies, and make claims and especially headlines that flat out are not supported by what is contained within them.  Everytime this happens, everytime an outlet does something like this, public trust in science is eroded. People become more likely to distrust important findings, and pseudoscience is more likely to flourish.  Reporting like this in the world of health, nutrition, and fitness is the entire reason I started this website. I wanted to do what I could to restore trust in science, and do my best to analyze what the best science available has to say about nutrition.  I believe that people deserve better than to be lied to in order to get more clicks.

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Alcohol is a dangerous and addictive compound.  Please always drink responsibly and never drink and drive.  3.3 million people die every year in alcohol related deaths.  If you are worried you may have a problem with alcohol please seek professional help.  The number for the substance abuse and mental health services administration hotline is 1-800-662-HELP.  Please seek help if you need it.

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Bibliography (I may not directly address these studies in the episode but I looked at them and thought they might be valuable):

https://phys.org/news/2014-03-tequila-sweetener-diabeticshelps-blood-sugar.html

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

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