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Beer-drinking rats count calories better than many people, UF researchers say

ntake of six male and five female rats over several days in three separate experiments, said their work supports the idea that people don't consider the nutritional aspects of beer, liquor, mixed drinks and even soft drinks.

"I think it tells people to watch what they are eating," Rowland said. "Outside factors are overriding the natural signals that we've eaten enough or have had too much to drink. That's not a novel concept, but it is a good description of what's happening. Some folks stand by the chip bowl and consume a lot of food with their alcohol, when they need to think about drinks in general as components of their energy intake. The rats can count these calories very well. People can be educated to think about these internal signs that the rats are so aware of, and eat one less sandwich and have one less drink."

More than 50 years ago, scientists noticed that Americans think of alcoholic beverages as a drug, not as a source of nutrition, Rowland said. Since then, researchers have studied caloric compensation in humans and in animals, noting that rats instinctively manage their weight by not eating as much when they receive calories from alcohol. Scientists believe people may ignore the internal stop signs. But the rodent imbibing experience in previous experiments didn't parallel the human one. Rats would drink the ethanol and water that scientists mixed for them only if nothing else were available -- not the typical atmosphere you'd find at a tailgate party. In addition, people usually prefer a variety of ingredients in their drink selections, which makes the matter of assessing calories far more complicated.

"Most humans consume alcohol in a mix with something else, like a beer or a margarita, which has lots of other components in it," Rowland said. "If the body has to count calories, the mechanism must be complex enough to analyze more than just one thing. The point was to develop in rats a way in which they willingly consume rela
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Contact: John Pastor
jpastor@vpha.health.ufl.edu
352-392-3845
University of Florida
1-Feb-2005


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