Beer! The perfect refreshment and staple drink in every pub in the world! We love beer – but does it cause our belly to, you know, become a beer belly?
Well, folk wisdom ususally isn’t completely devoid of merit, but it often lacks scientific refinement. This time, too, this is the case.
Let’s first examine what kind of stuff you find in beer, what effects it has on your body – which will bring us closer to the answer!
First of all a typical lager beer, contains around 5% of alcohol by volume. Apart from that it contains around 4 grams of carbohydrates per 100g which gives it a moderate caloric content of around 43 calories per 100 grams.
This means if you drink 2 large beers (1000 ml, or 1 liter), you consume 430 calories. This is not a small amount, but it’s also not that high, and based solely on its caloric content, beer could hardly give you a beer belly, unless you consume large amounts every day.
However there’s more to it. Alcohol makes us hungry! According this this study on mice, alcohol stimulates brain cells that control appetite, or in other words it makes us feel hungry. In fact, the mice involved in the experiment ate 10% to 25% more food on the days they were given alcohol. This might be surprising as alcohol itself has a high caloric content – 7 calories per gram. But still, it manages to fool our brains into thinking that we are starving, inspite of all the calories that we consume.
And this, in fact, is the main cause of beer belly: so it’s not the beer itself, but what you eat after beer. Or, if we want to be more precise, the calories from beer itself play only a minor role in the development of beer belly, but since beer contains alcohol, it stimulates hunger, and as we all know it, this makes it almost impossible to resist fast food after a night of drinking… And then it’s not only that we eat more, but we eat more of fattening foods, and usually right before going to sleep, which means the calories can easily convert into body fat.
Take home message: occasional beer will probably not give you a beer belly. But if you regularly go out and drink beer, and if you can’t resist the siren call of fast food restaurants or bakeries on your way back home, it’s quite likely that it will contribute to weight gain. It still doesn’t mean that the weight you gain will go into your belly… since body fat distribution depends on genetics, hormones, and many other factors, and there’s nothing about beer that changes these distribution patterns in a way to make it more likely for fat to go to your belly. But if you keep doing it like that regularly, weight gain is quite likely to happen.