Does Beer Cause Belly Fat?

Mature overweight man sitting in armchair, maid (close-up of hand) serving glass of beer
A man drinks beer in his living room. (Image: Michael Greenberg/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Whether it’s called a beer belly, pot belly or spare tire, an expanding waistline is a serious health risk. A single beer only contains about 150 calories, but it’s not uncommon for a beer connoisseur to swig a six-pack of beer in one sitting, which leads to excess calorie consumption and the “beer belly” moniker. An enlarged midsection -- whether it’s from beer or other high-calorie foods -- is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

Beer and Fat Buildup

Alcoholic drinks, such as beer, increases the risk of belly fat because the liver prioritizes burning alcohol before metabolizing fat, according to Columbia Health. This allows more fat to store in your body in a process known as fat sparing. Beer and other alcoholic drinks tend to increase appetite, so extra calories can be consumed through snacks often paired with beer, such as potato chips, pizza or baked goods. Beer has empty calories; it doesn't contain the fiber, vitamins or minerals you need to feel satisfied, which also leads to excess calorie consumption and fat gain.

Why the Belly?

Where your body stores fat is influenced by your sex, age, lifestyle and genetics. Men tend to store fat in the belly, while women deposit fat around the hips, buttocks and thighs. This does not mean women cannot gain a beer belly, it's just less likely than with men when consuming too many calories. A decline in hormone levels with age, in both men and women, also increases the likelihood of storing belly fat.

Belly Fat and Health Risks

The belly region is where several vital organs is located. Unlike subcutaneous fat -- which is found just under the skin -- visceral fat is found between your organs. The visceral fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. A waistline of 35 inches or more is a high risk for women, while 40 inches or more is a health hazard for men, according to The American Council on Exercise. Both subcutaneous and visceral fat contribute to abdominal obesity, so you will have to cut both types of fat to reduce the health risks.

Losing the Beer Belly

An effective way to lose belly fat is putting the fat to good use to fuel cardiovascular exercise. Giving up beer and other high-calorie foods in place of whole foods, such as leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seafood and lean cuts of meat can help create a calorie deficit of 500 calories daily. This can help you lose at least 1 pound of weight weekly. A diet consisting of whole foods will be high in fiber and keep you fuller for longer.

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