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Beer is one of the most common drinks you can find anywhere in the world. Due to its high rate of consumption, there are many theories regarding the source and cause of beer belly. Beer drinkers have noticeably big bellies, especially men. But, does beer really cause “beer belly”? What’s interesting is that not all beer drinkers sport the bellies, and some have larger paunches than others. So, is there any scientific basis regarding beer consumption and beer belly or is it just a common belief?

Beer and Waist Circumference

Research published by the Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition, compared the effects of drinking beer on waist circumference. The research which also factored in gender investigated over 7,000 men and more than 12,000 women.

In its conclusions, it was discovered that beer consumption directly leads to an increase in waist circumference and overall weight gain. However, there was no evidence showing a site-specific effect of beer on the abdomen, specifically the beer belly.

Beer Belly Facts

Normally, fats are deposited under your skin, clogging up the walls of your blood vessels and covering your internal organs. This is especially widespread in people with excessive intake of calories. On the same note, protein and carbs are stored as fat if overconsumed. Now, beer is a type of carb that’s usually stored in your internal organs. But, because the body doesn’t really need beer for it to function properly, daily consumption doesn’t give your body enough time to flush it out. As a result, your body ends up storing the beer. Combining this with poor eating habits (junk foods, excessive consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods) could potentially increase belly fat.

According to Michael Jensen, MD, of Mayo Clinic, when you drink alcohol, your liver burns alcohol instead of fat. Belly fat can also be caused by oversized portions of food and sugary beverages due to the high number of calories. Considering that one bottle of beer can carry up to 150 calories, imagine the calorie overload you feed your body if you down several glasses of alcohol in one sitting. This is made worse by the fact that beer increases your appetite and you’re more likely to indulge in fried and unhealthy foods.

Why Fat Accumulates in the Belly

When your calorie intake exceeds the much your body can burn, it’s stored as fat. Fat storage is determined by hormones, age, and sex. In women, the excess fat is deposited in their buttocks, thighs, arms, breasts and some in their bellies. This is because women have more subcutaneous fat than men. On the other hand, most of the excess fat in men is stored in the bellies.

Generally, men store more visceral fat than subcutaneous fat. You may notice that many older men have potbellies compared to young men. This is because you become less active as you grow older and your calorie needs reduce, making weight gain easy if you indulge in fattening or unhealthy foods. Likewise, it’s rare to see a skinny woman with a bulbous belly, unless she’s pregnant. For men, this is common given the fact some male drinkers don’t eat enough and thus end up losing weight. Hormones and smoking also contribute to fat deposits around the midsection.

Health Risks of Belly Fat

The fat stored in your midsection is considered the most dangerous type of fat, especially visceral fat, compared to fats stored in other sections of the body like the thighs. This type of fat is metabolically active and can directly interfere with your body’s hormones and blood flow. One study shows that men who drank more than three drinks in a day have an 80 percent chance of having a lot of belly fat compared to those who don’t drink. Other reports show that drinking moderate amounts of beer may actually be beneficial to the body. But, there are other factors such as the type of food you eat that may reduce or increase the risks. Some of the health risks linked to beer belly include:

  • Metabolic syndrome.
  • Heart disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Type 2 diabetes.

How to Lose Your Beer Belly

Beer drinkers should limit their alcohol intake to avoid liver damage. It’s also important to be physically active by doing exercises that will help you lose weight. Belly fat is unhealthy and can lead to many health risks. The best exercises to tackle belly fat include cycling, swimming, running, and racquet sports like tennis. Another important factor to put into practice is a healthy diet. Up your intake of fresh whole fruits and vegetables and cut back on unhealthy fats and sugar.

Conclusion

According to a number of studies, the beer belly is a myth. However, there is evidence showing that beer causes weight gain and increases waist circumference. If you’re already overweight, high-intensity workouts, cardio, and a healthy balanced diet will aid in weight loss and ultimately improve your health. On the other hand, if you’re a beer drinker and haven’t developed a beer belly yet, you should limit your intake or go for light beer which has fewer calories.

All images by Pixabay

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