People who have up to five alcoholic drinks per week are significantly less likely to be obese than tee-totallers and heavy drinkers, says a study published in the BMC Public Health journal.
Heavy drinkers, or those drinking alcohol four or more times daily, were 46 per cent more likely to be obese.
US researchers Ahmed Arif, of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and James Rohrer, from Mayo Clinic, analysed a survey of 8,236 non-smokers, which detailed drinking habits and body mass index.
They found 46 per cent of people drank at least one alcoholic beverage every month.
"The evidence reported here argues against a strategy of promoting complete abstention at least among those who regularly consume alcohol."
Both, however, said "the data give no evidence to advise non-drinkers to start drinking alcohol just for reducing body weight".
There were a number of factors left to be researched further, such as the effects of different alcoholic drinks like beer, wine and spirits, and the various other lifestyle factors, including lack of exercise and poor diet, associated with obesity.
A BMC spokesperson said the study was still valid: "It is rated as a good study, based on a large number of people, and we published it on these grounds."
Yet, another new study, from Auckland University in New Zealand, warned that alcohol's potential health benefits may be overrated.
The research, published in the Lancet, said that drinking alcohol in moderation had only a negligible effect on reducing a person's risk of heart disease.
The study contradicts a wealth of research published in the last twenty years that suggested drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, in small amounts may help to reduce heart disease risk.
The New Zealand researchers said that a number of other studies were flawed and that any heart health benefits from moderate or even heavy alcohol consumption would be outweighed by the risk of other health problems.
The study clearly does the drinks industry no favours, although there was no evidence that drinking in moderation harmed the heart.