DIET Drinkers eat bigger meals

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Dieters should drop the gin and tonic before dinner, rather than the mints with the coffee afterwards, if they are serious about losing weight.

Scientists have confirmed what aperitif lovers have always known - that a pre-prandial drink stimulates the appetite. Dutch researchers who gave a group of 40 men and women a range of different drinks 30 minutes before a meal found that those who had alcohol ate more quickly and consumed more calories.

Those who had fruit juice, water or a milkshake ate more slowly and consumed less. The content of the non-alcoholic drink made no difference - their calorie intake was the same as if they had drunk nothing.

A second study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Dublin undermines the common excuse offered by the sedentary for not exercising - that it will stimulate the appetite.

Research at the University of Leeds on a group of women trying to lose weight found they did not eat more after 50 minutes of intense exercise - but the food tasted better. Jeremy Laurance