Beer bellies—those distinctive “Santa Clause” pot bellies that make the guys look a little bit like there pregnant. But does the beer actually cause these beer bellies?

beer bellyA scientific review has found that beer does not alone cause the iconic “pot belly” that everyone associates with it. Scientists from NYU and UC Davis say it’s a myth, there is nothing special or magical about beer that causes a special beer gut. Alcohol is alcohol. Your body can’t tell the difference whether its beer, wine, or hard alcohol.

The reason why some beer drinkers get a beer belly comes down to a few other factors. Firstly, the cervix size—a beer is 12 to 16 ounces, a glass of wine is five to six ounces, and a shot is only one to two ounces. So beer is often consumed in higher quantities than other types of alcohol so you are consuming more calories. There are also lifestyle factors at play like poor diet. You often see beer serve alongside foods like sausages, hamburgers, and pizza. A very poor diet with or without beer can alone cause the pot belly.

You are even more prone if you’re over the age of 35 or if you are a male. After 35, your metabolism slows down and you can’t eat as much as you use to. This is why some older folks put on weight. They don’t re-adjust their diet to fit their slower metabolism. You also don’t see pot bellies in women and that is because women tend to store fat in their hips, thighs, booties, instead of their waistline.

If you have ever encountered an authentic belly so big and round that you can rest a drink on it, you know that there is something different going on in there. It’s not squishy or jiggly. It looks hard enough to pop. There are two reasons for this. If they are an extreme alcoholic, they could have ascites which is fluid retention usually caused by liver disease. For most beer bellies though, it’s because of the visceral fat. This is a fat that lives not right underneath the skin like that squishy subcutaneous fat, but packed deeper in the body around the organs. It feels hard because it pushes up against your abdominal muscles.

Visceral fat is higher risk health wise because it can cause insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Subcutaneous fat is less worrisome and everyone needs at least a little to cushion their nerves, blood vessels, skeleton, and to regulate body temperature. Take sumo wrestlers as an example; these guys look really fat, eat a ton of food, but they are healthier than others who look just like them. The wrestlers don’t have insulin resistant, heart disease or diabetes and it’s because they have a lot of subcutaneous fat and very little of that beer belly visceral fat.

Why are there bodies this way? In 2007, German scientist successfully isolated three genes that process body fat. When they looked at an individual’s gene expression, they can correctly predict if they would score more visceral fat or subcutaneous fat. And this is why someone’s weight is an imperfect measure of their overall health and it’s also why the last beer belly contributor is genetics.

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