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Ask Elsa: Is alcohol to blame for my weight?

Q I'm a 30-year-old male and I'm roughly a stone overweight despite having a good diet and exercising regularly. My girlfriend reckons alcohol is my problem but I only drink at weekends, how much does alcohol impact on weight?

AYes, it is possible that alcohol is hindering your weight loss. Alcohol slows down the body's ability to burn fat. The body metabolises alcohol before any other calorie you've consumed or stored, including fat or even sugar.

For every drink you have, you have to subtract something else from your diet, log another mile on the treadmill, or risk weight gain.

Furthermore, people eat about 20pc more calories when they drink with a meal, possibly because alcohol interferes with satiety or simply because it makes your judgment fuzzier about what you should eat or whether you should have that second helping or not.

In addition, most people will eat more the day after drinking if they have a hangover.

A pint of beer contains approximately 200 calories. So if you consume 10 pints over a weekend, that's equivalent to approximately 2,000 calories which means you are potentially consuming an extra full day's worth of calories.

Like anything, moderation is key. If you are serious about losing weight, I'd recommend that you eliminate or at least cut back on alcohol for a couple of months and see if it makes a difference. It's most likely it will.

Q High blood pressure runs in my family and at the moment mine is slightly elevated. What can I do diet wise to keep it from getting any higher?

A A high salt intake is responsible for about one in three new cases of high blood pressure. It also increases a person's risk of developing kidney disease, stomach cancer and osteoporosis.

The average daily salt intake in Ireland is high -- approximately 10g in adults. For optimum health, adults should ideally consume no more than 4 grams of salt per day, however, 6 grams (1 teaspoon) is generally accepted as a more realistic target.

The easiest way to cut down on your salt intake is to reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Processed foods that typically have high salt levels include condiments, soups, sauces, crisps, bread, pizza, ready-made meals and lunch meats.

Where sodium is listed, rather than salt, we need to multiply the figure for sodium by 2.5 to get the actual amount of salt. This is especially important for people who are trying to keep their blood pressure down.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie