If you see a man with a big belly, he must be indulging in plenty of libations, beer in particular, or so the stereotype goes. But does drinking beer actually cause a beer belly?
“We have some indication that people who are binge-drinking are more frequently apple-shaped,” said Professor Morton Gronbeck in BBC News. “They tend to be abdominally obese, but drinking the same amount of alcohol spread out over the week would not give you an apple shape.”Well, it certainly can. But so can drinking any alcoholic beverage, particularly in binge amounts. In fact, according to The Centre for Alcohol Research in Denmark, people who drink large amounts of alcohol in one or two sittings are more likely to be “apple-shaped.”
So while there is certainly a link between excess drinking and a “beer belly,” why this link exists is still not known.
To some extent, carrying weight around the midsection in men may be genetic. Your body stores fat where there are fat cells, and for most of us they concentrate on the upper and lower midsection. Exactly where the fat goes may depend on the lipoprotein lipase, which is an enzyme necessary for fat storage.
Women have more of this enzyme in the thighs and buttocks while men have higher concentrations in the abdomen.
The Health Risks of a Big Belly
Carrying extra fat around your midsection is extremely dangerous, as people with large bellies are at a higher risk of dangerous visceral fat, which can infiltrate your liver and other organs, streak through your muscles and even strangle your heart.
According to the Mayo Clinic, extra belly fat can lead to:
- Some types of cancers
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Abnormal lipids — high triglycerides and low HDL (“good” cholesterol)
- Insulin resistance
- Metabolic syndrome
So whether you are a man or a woman, losing excess weight around your belly is much more than a cosmetic issue; it’s a health issue.
What’s the Best Way to Trim a Beer Belly?
Contrary to popular belief, doing endless crunches and sit-ups is not the secret to slimming your midsection.
“There is no food, no exercise, and no herb that will cause your body to remove fat in one place versus another,” says Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
To remove fat, no matter where it may be, you must follow the basic rule of weight loss: burn more calories than you consume.
Exercise, in particular, is extremely effective at reducing visceral fat. A study by Duke University Medical Center researchers found that people who were physically inactive had significant increases in visceral fat, while those who exercised frequently had significant decreases in visceral fat, over an eight-month period. Ideally, this should be done with a combination of two things you’ve surely heard of before: diet and exercise.
Just a brisk 30-minute walk six times a week was enough to prevent accumulation of visceral fat, while even more exercise (17 miles of jogging per week) was found to actually reverse the amount of visceral fat.
Along with exercise, the following tips will also help to decrease belly fat:
- Cut out excess “empty” calories like those from soda, candy, cookies, sweetened drinks and chips first.
- Avoid unhealthy trans fats, and opt for healthier natural fats from olive oil, nuts, and avocados instead.
- Don’t focus your workouts on a specific body area (like abs or legs). Use a whole-body approach instead.
- Avoid eating too many processed carbs (white sugar and white flour, etc.). These extra carbohydrates are easily converted into fat.
- Don’t get caught up in yo-yo dieting. The more you lose weight and regain it again, the worse it is for your health and the harder it will become to get rid of fat.
- Limit your alcohol intake. It’s high in calories and excessive drinking will leave you little energy to stick with your exercise routine.
- Bake, grill, steam or broil food instead of frying it (fewer calories and better for health and energy).
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables, including dark greens. Along with the many outstanding nutrients, the fiber in vegetables (and whole fruits) will help you feel full.