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Beware The Beer Belly

Updated on December 1, 2011

When I was in high school, an older friend of mine came home from college for summer break. To everyone's surprise the formerly lean young man returned sporting quite the beer belly. When mentioned to him, he would only rub it and say "Pure liquid diet." If only beer bellies were simply just funny.

Metabolic Syndrome

A beer belly may be a good indication one is afflicted with metabolic syndrome, a generally unhealthy condition which is associated with the ailments listed above. Metabolic syndrome is sometimes refered to as syndrome X.

There are five basic symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome: They are a large amount of belly fat, high triglycerides, low HDL levels, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Generally having any three of these symptoms may indicate you have metabolic syndrome.

Interestingly, researchers have found a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and metabolic syndrome.

Beer Belly Research

While generally unattractive to the opposite sex, the beer belly has far more dangerous consequences. Recently researchers have found that those with fat concentrated around the abdomen are at greater risk of a wide assortment of serious medical problems. Surprisingly these findings hold up even when compared to people with an equal amount of fat more evenly distributed around the body. Belly fat is a plainly visible indication of increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some types of cancer.

What Causes It?

So alcohol is associated with a big gut. A big gut is associated with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is associated with all kinds of terrible health problems. What's the cause?

There is some thought that alcohol disrupts your metabolism. The liver may choose to process alcohol before fats in your system. There is also evidence that alcohol prevents the absorption of b-vitamins needed for a healthy metabolism. Thiamine (B1) deficiency is rare, but can often be found in alcoholics.

Disturbingly, alcohol suppresses the production of testosterone for up to a day after consumption. Testosterone, a hormone, plays an important role in metabolism - and being a man. Tragically, the consumption of alcohol in the form of beer further contributes to the issue because the hops used to brew it actually encourages estrogen production. This can be devastating news to fans of India Pale Ales.

All Things In Moderation

If you've been trying to rid yourself of a beer belly, but still indulge from time to time in a 6 pack, you may want to alter your drinking habits.

Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that those who drank less frequently but more heavily had the greatest amount of belly fat. Those that had a small amount more frequently had the smallest amount of belly fat.

This may be partially explained by the type of alcohol consumed. Wine, more likely to be had just one glass at a time, was found the have the lowest effect on belly fat, liquor was found to have the greatest effect. It is not clear if there is something in wine that helps offset the effect of alcohol, or if it simply consumed in smaller quantities then liquor.

Still the simple fact that alcohol consumed less frequently but in greater volume leads to higher levels of belly fat is strong evidence that alochol in volume is having some sort of negative effect on your metabolism, and your health.

If you've been trying to lose weight unsuccesfully, but still throw back a few with the guys on the weekend, try limiting yourself to no more then one alcholic drink a day to see if there is any effect. Clearly some men and women are more sensitive to this effect then others.


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    • grexley profile image

      grexley 6 years ago

      Hi JT,

      Metabolic syndrome is also refered to as syndrome X. I see that I did not clearly explain that. I've edited the hub to clear up the confusion.


    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 6 years ago from Florida

      What is syndrome X? There is an X chromosone but I don't udnerstand syndrome X. Could you clarify?