Beer Bellies Are a Myth

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Consider the cliché: a darkened room, a bleary-eyed middle-aged man collapsed into a couch, beer in hand, TV-flicker illuminating his sallow stubbled face, and a stomach threatening to escape from his pants like a giant mutant amoeba.

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Blame that belly on the beer? Not so fast. According to University of California Davis food science professor Charles Bamforth, the colloquial notion of the beer belly — that beer somehow uniquely targets the gut – doesn’t jibe with medical science.

“The beer belly is a complete myth. The main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage is alcohol,” Bamforth told Popular Science. “There’s nothing magical about the alcohol in beer, it’s just alcohol.”

Alcohol doesn’t have V.I.P. dibs on abdominal fat in other words (any more than spot exercises like sit-ups burn stomach chub), it’s just another ingredient in your caloric regimen, though Bamforth notes that in cases of excessive alcohol consumption (read: abuse) you can develop something called ascites: a buildup of fluid around your abdomen that can cause distension of a sort, though in that case it’s likely related to actual liver damage.

So where did this idea that beer consumption spawns belly fat come from anyway?

Massachusetts General Hospital alcohol researcher Dr. Aliyah Sohani suggests it may have to do with serving sizes: Both cans and bottles of beer average 12 ounces, while your average glass of wine contains five and your average shot glass is just 1.5 ounces.

“You are drinking it in more quantities than wine or liquor, so you tend to have more caloric intake,” says Sohani. “You are talking about a difference between several hundred calories a night and a couple hundred.” Follow the logic here and if the average lush consumed wine in greater quantities than beer, the colloquialism would be “wine belly” (though hello alliterative fizzle).

No, that doesn’t mean anyone’s green-lighting your nightly keg stands — alcohol is a calorie-dense compound, after all — it’s just that those extra belly rolls are as likely to come from any calorie-dense source as your favorite brew.

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61 comments
rajeevdsamuel
rajeevdsamuel

1) Alcohol use inhibits testosterone production for up to 24 hours

2) Beer is made from Hops and Hops is Phyto-Estrogen which is POISON to men ( belly/tits/impotence )

3) Until the body clears the alcohol from the body all fat-burning stops i.e. all calories are turned into visceral fat

4) Testosterone inhibits abdominal adipose tissue placement

Ubiquitousnewt
Ubiquitousnewt

1) Alcohol use inhibits testosterone production
2) Testosterone inhibits abdominal adipose tissue placement. Ref:" Effect of testosterone on abdominal adipose tissue in men."
3) calories=fat. Period.

So the take-home here is lower testosterone+extra calories=abdominal fat. How those factors happen doesn't matter... but alcohol use really manages the trifecta, which is why we call it a "beer" belly - because drinkers have them so reliably.

renfieldc
renfieldc

It'll still always be known as a "beer gut".

DianeNeillTincher
DianeNeillTincher

What happened to common sense?  More calories in than expended = fat.  Plain and simple. 
"Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."  

onggi
onggi

Is it possible that the researchers didn't read the wheat belly book and there is wheat in beer! 

musketeer
musketeer

This is actually a serious subject treated very lightly. Many doctors, nutritionists and other experts keep telling us that calories make people fat. Calorie restriction has been the basis for fighting the obesity epidemic for at least two generations; do you see how spectacularly it has failed? Have you noticed that a lite-beer belly is just as big as a regular beer belly? And that a sweet-soda belly is even bigger? I am still waiting for some eminent group of scientists to get off the calorie bandwagon and onto the glycemic index bandwagon. William Davis, MD, calls it Wheat Belly; I call it sandwich belly, potato belly, popcorn belly and soda belly. What is the GI of beer? Hard to say because the forces at work keep muddying the waters. My best bet is that if you examine "beer belly" people, you will find metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and probably a significant % of type 2 diabetes, all of which are caused by the constant blood-sugar yo-yo of modern fast-food diet - sandwiches (it's the bread), fries, sodas - and ... what we used to call liquid bread: beer!

metre
metre

Perhaps it would better stated as "beer drinker's belly".  But "beer belly" is just shorter and easier to say. The implication of "beer belly" comes from the blue collar beer drinking poor eating individual. 

Terina
Terina

I beg to differ... as soon as I drink a beer, my stomach swells up to the size of a 6 month pregnancy. This happens to a lot of people I know. It's called a gluten intolerance, or caused by IBS and is created by bloating caused from not being able to digest wheat.

BruceThompson
BruceThompson

Call it a Pot Belly??...but getting the munchies usually happens.

BruceThompson
BruceThompson

I got Six Pack Abs and it took a lot of six packs to get 'em. 

dingobait
dingobait

Do carbs count? Anyone remember the Fatkins craze? I drink wine, I don't get fat. I drink beer I get fat. Beer has a LOT more carbs. 

JoeSmith2
JoeSmith2

It's not beer, it's intolerance to cows milk (lactose intolerance) that causes your stomach to swell, bloated, burping, farting, acid reflux, stomach cramps, diarrhea etc.

ShawnLa
ShawnLa

Wine has three times the alcohol that beer does. So, if alcohol = calories, one 4 ounce glass of wine would = one can of beer.

BillShut
BillShut

PLEASE tell me that no taxpayer money was wasted on some stupid university study to "prove" this??  What on earth does this have to do with educating young adults??  Someone find this professor a real job already!!

DavidCharles
DavidCharles

Perhaps the association with beer is due to ascites, which is the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area and which is almost always caused by liver damage from alcohol. This is a very common condition in heavy drinkers. Since the liver is not functioning correctly, the subject may be losing fat and muscle tissue all over his body but will have a noticeable "Beer Belly".   

GlennNile
GlennNile

Do the people that write this and other news articles on the internet actually read? Roman Gladiators were put on a strict diet of Barely (nothing else) to put on weight before the season began. What is bear made from?

MichaelDavidSlowik
MichaelDavidSlowik

It's THE CARBS that are the problem Bread Beer whatever it all goes to the Belly. I happen to be working on 35 extra pounds around my massive girth of my belly. Its disgusting. Im 215 going to 175 lets see how long it takes

cy12
cy12

This is such a misunderstanding. Beer belly has nothing to do with beer, nor with fat. What you see on a beer belly is not fat at all. In fact if you pinch the belly its quite hard. It is what is called a distended belly: damaged and inflamed intestines, due to years and years of eating too fast and not chewing food properly. It happens over years and as you get older the belly gets more inflated from the inside, until you end up having the classic 'beer-belly'. It has nothing to do with fat. Just do an image search on Gogle for 'FX Mayr' and look at the pictures. Mayr was a doctor who recognized the condition and treated it. He is mostly ignored by modern medicine.

NCCalNick
NCCalNick

I'm sorry to disagree with the learned academics but I have known for many years that alcohol relaxes the stomach muscles particularly when delivered in large but diluted quantities i.e. beers.

Nick.

amster
amster

Beer bellies are not a myth. If you drink beer, and that takes you over your recommended/usual calorific intake (which is about 2000 for the average man), then you'll eventually get a belly.

Men put weight on their stomach's first, and then the love handles and then everywhere else in most cases. Each pint of beer brings your 260 calories odd closer to that daily 2000 calorie limit you should keep to.


BldrRepublcn
BldrRepublcn

It's not the alcohol in the beer, it's the beer itself, which is higher in carbs.

So, yes, there is such a thing as "beer belly", but it's not from the alcohol.  Sounds like this guys research is substandard

PeterIY
PeterIY

I have once seen someone grow a fat belly over a year and I put it down to the beer. If he continued to pile on the pounds, I'm sure it would spread all over in time but I haven't seen him for years so \I don't know

nicmart
nicmart

It's carb. Carb causes fat deposition. For many people that deposition occurs in and around the gut. Not a myth.

lewiscook887
lewiscook887

when is the small group in hollywood going to retire from ruleing world via 666 hollywood tv radio tyranny over the mind of man that thomas jefferson refers to above his wash dc monument?

eaton.harry
eaton.harry

"...doesn’t jibe with medical science" - Ha ha, it doesn't trade insults with science? 

Peters
Peters

And water's wet and the sky is blue..... and your specialist subject is the bleedin’ obvious….. I think we know this already… hope your next grant is as productively employed … really, this does look like telling us we stand on outr feet

Sanity
Sanity

This is surely based on a misunderstanding.  It was never the case that anyone thought beer somehow uniquely targeted the gut.  Merely that a major intake of calories in some middle aged men (especially for earlier generations) was the practice of going to the bar and supping a few pints lunchtime and evening.  This intake built up and the energy has to be stored somewhere.

This is so obvious that I wonder if the misunderstanding was deliberate in order to gain publicity.

Lolo
Lolo

I think that beer will also stretch your stomach through quantity of liquid and bubble. So I think it encourages bigger portions of food and different diet than wine drinkers. 

NAJ
NAJ

I believe it to be the yeast in the bear and nothing to do with the alcohol so your article is spot on from an alcohol perspective. Beer uses a bottom cropping yeast called Saccharomyces pastorianus.

jaydee1818
jaydee1818

Actually I think the real reason for calling it a beer belly is because it seems more "manly" to say I'm fat because I drink too much beer rather than I'm fat because I eat too much and exercise too little.

skibum8106
skibum8106

So much for a well researched article.  Any endocrinologist or hepatologist could easily explain the relation of consuming alcohol and a beer belly.  Sadly none were interviewed.   The liver metabolizes about 70 percent of the alcohol consumed and does it by converting it to fatty acids and then triglycerides, and when consuming chronic levels, leads to fatty accumulation in and around the liver.  By the way, the sugar fructose, consumed in high chronic levels may have a similar effect for a similar reason.  So is it a beer belly or sugar belly?  In addition, anyone who thinks a calorie is a calorie, or calorie density affects weight gain doesn’t understand organic chemistry, and  the body’s metabolic processes and cycles.

 

pauluspigus
pauluspigus

It's this simple - it's a 'hangover' phrase (sorry!) from the old days and it's about lifestyle. Beer bellies were/are usually associated with guys, not women. This is because the phrase dates back to the days in UK when most guys would go out drinking to the pub or social club and traditional ale would be their drink of choice - containing not just alcohol but residual sugars and carbon dioxide fizz. Not only will the extra calories build fat over time, but the volume and fizz, after 4 or more pints, will start to stretch out your stomach muscles. If this is not compensated by exercises (usually not the case in the old days - no gyms and general labour doesn't address the stomach muscles well), then the stomach will become like a balloon, stretched and swelling. If you add in the factor that these guys in that lifestyle generally ate bad food during the same evening (e.g. pie and chips, pork scratchings, fatty savaloy sausages), you have a recipe for a big fat belly. In fact some guys never got so fat (as you would see in their face and butt), they just got the big belly - literally from volume of gaseous beer.

Of course, in the old days women did not drink so much at all. And nowadays they tend to drink wine or spirits - less volume and fewer residual sugars. What's more, women tend to eat differently when they booze - lighter food. And they are more likely to do stomach exercises than men because they are simply more concious about their figure. Hence no 'wine belly' talk.

deanmedwrds
deanmedwrds

The funny thing is that while this article tries to dispel the "myth" of a beer belly they've actually confirmed it. Beer has lots of calories. Excessive drinking of beer causes weight gain. A person who drinks excessive amounts of beer is not likely to be on any regular exercise regimen. All of that would result in in a larger belly. So, drinking lots of beer causes your belly to grow, which is why it's called a "beer belly."

musketeer
musketeer

@DianeNeillTincher 

The belief that calories make us fat is actually groupthink. With all the "low-cal" stuff that passes for food (Michael Pollan said eat food, not eat manufactured stuff) we are eating far fewer calories than our grandparents, yet we are a lot fatter. We exercise more than our grandparents. The French, who are the healthiest nation on earth had it right a long time ago; their "common sense" is that the 3 P's that make us fat. They refer to bread (pain), potatoes and pasta, all high-glycemic index foods. They did not include sugary drinks as they did not exist then. What do you think happens when you eat some "Healthy Choice Steamer", a low-cal invention with 40 ingredients, only 4 or 5 of which can be seen? How is it that we get fat with so few calories? In my book, observing how and what people eat trumps "common sense".  Time to open our eyes and see that our daily diet has been largely reduced to sandwiches, pizza, fries, snacks, and sodas, all high-GI stuff.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@Terina  

that's not the beer belly they're talking about though.  did you even read the article? it's not saying beer can't cause a stomach to swell. it's saying the common myth of the "beer belly" is incorrect

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@ShawnLa

1 can of beer =  1 glass of wine = 1 shot of liquor (general rule of thumb, obviously a beer with 10% alcohol or moonshine would throw this off, but that's a general rule)

OrginalLePhantom
OrginalLePhantom

@ShawnLa , the entire article is almost void of logic.   Actually, there is much contradiction.

Jimsmeeenan
Jimsmeeenan

Another curiosity challenged individual. God forbid that colleges should conduct research on obesity.  Not much of a scholar are you?

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@GlennNile 

bear made from muscle tissue and bone and blood and fur.  bear scary.  bear roar

GlennNile
GlennNile

Oops. That would be Beer. (-:


Glenn

AllHashTags
AllHashTags

@cy12 generally, people ignored by modern medicine are ignored for good reason. Mr Mayr states this: "Therefore, a slender, shapely abdomen is not just a standard of beauty: one should keep in mind that deviations from the ideal indicate reduced functionality" which is pretty much all I need to know about his credibility.

Ubiquitousnewt
Ubiquitousnewt

@musketeer This is a collection of misinformation that doesn't deserve to be on the internet, let alone Time.  We eat more calories and exercise less than anyone IN HISTORY - especially our grandparents, who you know, barely managed not to starve to death in the Great Depression.

Why are we "fat"? Carbon. It's that simple. All "fat" is, is stored up "carbo-hydrate" in the form of mostly triglycerides...from sugar, from protein, from alcohol, from starch (just sugar macromolecules). The French, who aren't "The healthiest nation on Earth," by any definition, also WALK everywhere. ...Now what you're kinda on to something with, is that processed food is *high in calories*, and low in the nutrients you need to stay alive... so you have to sort through a lot of nutrient poor calories to live. Guess where those excess carbons go? Right. Your body stores that excess carbon as fat, "just in case."

You can eat fewer calories or you can exercise more to burn off more. That's it. Those are your choices. 50 years of diet hokum has confused and obfuscated one of the simplest mathematical phenomenon there is.

DianeNeillTincher
DianeNeillTincher

@musketeer @DianeNeillTincher 

Well, truth be told, I live in rural Japan.  My diet consists mainly of freshly picked vegetables, thanks to the local elderly who diligently tend their small gardens.  I never eat any food that is not "food."  I do not consider processed food to be real food.  I am baffled by the American food-producers (and perhaps buyers, I cannot say) obsession with chemicalizing food and making it "low-fat" or "low-calorie."  That, to me, is anti-common sense.

cy12
cy12

@AllHashTags @cy12  In this comment he seems to be saying that apart from people wanting to look better, they should realise that a bloated belly is due to reduced functionality of the digestive system. In other words, that the more important goal is to bring the digestive system back to health and not to look beautiful, What's wrong with that? (by ''ideal'' here, he means the ideal functional state of the digestive tract, and not beauty ideal).

eaton.harry
eaton.harry

Bizarre - never, ever seen that usage! My dictionary states it is "informal", normally limited to conversation or informal writing (whatever that is), so maybe that's why I've never seen it... I rescind my earlier comment, you learn something every day, thanks for pointing it out.