THE BEER BELLY MYTH – YOU’RE FAT STUPID

beer belly

Beer Belly is nothing more than a term used for abdominal obesity. It has other names like Pot Belly, Beer Gut, etc. There is no known origin of this term but certainly would have stemmed out of habitual drinkers who had a protruding belly. But how do you picture a man with a Beer Belly? It’s generally a man with a big glass of beer, lying on a sofa, with a bag of chips, and switching channels with the remote.

But the term ‘Beer Belly’ has nothing to do with beer causing the increase in belly size. Beer is just like any other alcoholic beverage, it’s always the total quantity consumed that matters, and if you are consuming humongous amounts daily, then most foods and drinks will give you a belly. In simple terms, you would be simply fat. Protruding belly or Pot Belly is simply excessive fat stored in the abdominal and stomach area, which has a strong correlation with a number of diseases.

beer belly

Beer is a much-loved beverage worldwide and people who consume beer come in all shapes and sizes. You could see extremely lean and athletic people enjoying their beer and the grossly obese too. The people with a belly are not because of having an excess beer, though it can be one of the reasons as beer will also give you a lot of calories if you drink by the tubs every day; however, there is no truth in the term as such. If you are drinking beer or for that matter any alcoholic beverage in excess, the extra calories will be stored as fat. Have you ever heard of a “Scotch Belly”, or “Wine Belly”?

On the other hand, men who are leading a sedentary lifestyle and gorging on massive amounts of food will surely store the excess calories as fat in the belly area. That’s not just beer, it’s everything else too. Even if you don’t consume beer, you would still have the big belly, if you eat in excess and don’t burn it out.

A normal beer contains approx 150-250cal/pint and even more in certain brands. The problem with an alcoholic beverage is that the liver burns alcohol first and then fat. So when you are taking an alcoholic beverage, the excess calories will take more time to burn. But then again it’s true for all alcoholic drinks. Adding to the fact, alcohol also increases appetite, so in turn, you consume more food while drinking alcohol. Beer is made of maltose, a type of sugar that significantly increases insulin secretion. Insulin being a storage hormone, may increase the fat storage capacity, but then that’s true for a number of other sugary drinks and foods.

Another point most people never noticed is that men genetically are predisposed to store fat in certain areas like belly, chin, etc. Whereas women store fat primarily in thighs, buttocks, arms and in fewer cases bellies too. So, the term could very well be “Beer Buttocks” or “Beer Thighs”, because women who consume excess calories will be fat in the same way as men, but just the areas of storing fat are different.

So calories whether from alcoholic drinks, sugary drinks, or oversized food portions, when in excess, can increase belly fat. A common observation is that older people tend to have more prominent beer bellies. But again this is not due to having a beer. It’s a combined effect of decreasing physical activities and maintaining a higher calorie intake. This issue is further worsened with decreasing hormones like testosterone which leads to a loss of muscle mass and a decreasing capability in burning fat.

In case of excessive alcohol consumption, damage to the liver can occur, which can cause a problem called Ascites, which is building up of fluid around the belly, but then this is an abuse of alcohol in any form, not just beer. Charles Bamforth, a professor at the University of California Davis, says, “The beer belly is a complete myth. The main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage is alcohol… There is nothing magical about the alcohol in beer, it’s just alcohol”. Alcohol has an energy content of 7kcal/g.

When you drink beer, you drink it in more quantity than other alcoholic beverages, and the serving size is typically larger than other beverages, that’s why the total calories are more. It’s not the beer or scotch, it’s the crappy fried snacks that accompany it, which makes the major difference. On the other hand, if we compare the same quantity, beer has fewer calories per 100ml than wine, whiskey, and even orange juice. Have you ever heard, someone ordering a salad with beer? The two terms simply don’t go together.

beer belly

Talking obesity is like opening a treasure box. There are a number of reasons associated with it. You could be obese due to your genetics, hormones, diet & calories, medical issues, activity levels, various medicines & steroids, stress, sleep, environmental factors, bodily toxins, etc.

A 2010 study in the Annals of Epidemiology, by S. Liangpunsakul, suggested that, apart from fat, ethanol is the macronutrient with the greatest energy density. The researchers studied over 10500 subjects and found that in both men & women, people with hazardous alcohol consumption participated in significantly less physical activity compared with those with no alcohol use or moderate drinking.

Studies that have proven that excess intake of alcohol causes increased obesity, have proven it to be true for all alcoholic beverages, not just beer. Moderate alcohol consumption is not associated with weight gain.

A 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, by M. Bobak and other researchers, suggested that there is no general consensus as to the relation of obesity to moderate alcohol intake. Since beer contains more carbohydrates per unit of ethanol than most wines or spirits, it has been suspected of increasing the risk of obesity to a larger extent than other alcoholic beverages. There is a common notion that beer drinkers are, on average more obese than either non-drinkers or drinkers of wine or spirits. To assess the facts behind these statements, Bobak and researchers, analyzed the data from Czech Republic, a county with the highest per capita beer consumption. 1141 men and 1212 women aged 25-64yrs were studied. The results showed that beer intake was significantly positively associated with smoking in both genders and negatively associated with education in men. The frequency of drinking beer was associated with Waist-Hip-Ratio (WHR), and BMI, but the association was statistically significant, and even lesser seen in women than men.

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