Beer Bellies 101: Why do you get a gut when you guzzle?

Posted Oct. 12, 2010, at 5:40 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 19, 2010, at 3:18 p.m.
They're not pregnant, they're just thirsty.
Maurice van der Velden
They're not pregnant, they're just thirsty.

There is nothing particularly special about beer that makes it cause a beer belly. A beer belly is nothing more than just being overweight. Any type of extra calories will lead to a beer belly, although it does seem that alcohol has a tendency to cause fat to accumulate around the midsection. Most people don’t seem to notice the calories in a drink as much as they notice what they eat. A couple of beers will run you on average about 300 calories. But some beers can have as much as 200-300 calories per serving. Now add in the munchies that go along with a beer and you could easily be up to 600 calories or more. That is a dangerous trend when the caloric need of an average sedentary adult is only 2000 calories a day or less. In general, it takes an extra 3500 calories to store a pound of fat. If you eat your necessary calories each day and then add only one beer (average 150 calories) a day for a year, you will add 15 pounds to your weight if you don’t offset with exercise. A “light” beer has less alcohol and therefore fewer calories. However, even a light beer has about 75 calories. All beers have “empty” calories. This is a term that nutritionists use to label a food that does not offer any nutritional benefit such as protein, fiber, or minerals and vitamins.

Men are more likely to get the “beer belly” look because of the way they distribute fat. Men tend to put fat inside their abdomen whereas women are more likely to put fat under their skin. Strong abdominal muscles can help a man suck in the abdomen and hide the extra fat that is being stored inside. A beer belly will also become more noticeable as we age because we lose some of our muscle and the skin becomes less tight. People who drink a lot of beer tend to be people who do not exercise. Most of us exercise less as we age and this contributes to gaining a beer belly. There are also some hormonal reasons why we accumulate fat around our midsection as we age.

Dr. Joanmarie Pellegrini is a surgeon and trauma specialist at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

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