The Hidden Dangers of a Beer Belly
For centuries people have known drinking lots of beer can lead to a large belly. While in the past a beer belly may have been unwanted for reasons of appearance, scientists are now discovering a beer belly is an unmistakable sign of major health problems.
Researchers are finding there is a substantial difference between fat stored around the belly and fat stored around the rest of the body. People who have large amounts of abdominal fat are often suffering from metabolic syndrome, also referred to as syndrome X. They have much higher risks of diabetes, heart disease, strokes and even some forms of cancer, then those with an equal amount of fat more evenly distributed.
Causes and Risk Factors
There is no clear cut cause of metabolic disorder, and likely people suffer from it for different reasons. However, researchers funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that those with the lowest amount of belly fat drank small amounts of alcohol on a more regular basis. Those with the highest amounts of belly fat drank less frequently but in greater volume.
Another study, by the Prevention Research Center, found that women who consumed 4 or more drinks a day and men who consumed 6 or more were 60% more likely to develop metabolic syndrome then those who averaged about a drink a day. There is strong evidence that heavy drinking, even if infrequent is leading to beer bellies and metabolic syndrome.
There is some evidence that high levels of alcohol interfere with the body’s metabolic process. Thiamine, vitamin B1, is needed for proper metabolism. It is added to many foods and a thiamine deficiency is generally rare – except for long term alcoholics. There is also evidence to suggest that alcohol alters the way the liver breaks down fats in the body. Additionally, large amounts of alcohol can depress the body’s production of testosterone, which among other important functions, helps regulate metabolism.
Everything In Moderation
If you want to get rid of your beer belly you don’t have to give up alcohol completely. A study out of Switzerland showed that those who drank moderately actually had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and late onset diabetes then those who did not drink at all.
You may also want to increase your intake of natural b-vitamins. Check your labels for foods high in whole wheat. These foods will generally have much higher levels of natural thiamine and other b-vitamins your body needs for proper metabolism, many of which may have been wiped out by excess alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is certainly not the only cause of abdominal fat and metabolic syndrome. Clearly overall diet and exercise play a major role, as do genetics. However, it clearly is a contributing factor in many people.
It may be hard to give up drinking on the weekends. However, consider that after a few beers, you begin drinking not just alcohol but heart disease, diabetes and stroke as well. Not only are those diseases life threatening, they can be chronically expensive to treat.