Durban - Have you often been teased about your “beer belly”? Yes, that round, often jolly-looking “boep” has for years been called the beer belly, and is often associated with having drunk quite a number of beers over the years.
However, that myth may be dispelled.
Nutritionist Dr Kathryn O’Sullivan, in her Beer And Calories, A Scientific review, released last week in Britain, says the belief that “beer is excessively calorific and causes weight gain and a ‘beer belly’ has no scientific basis”.
Waist circumference, she said, increased with increased weight gain as a consequence of excess calories being consumed.
Beer has a relatively lower calorie value compared with other alcoholic drinks, as well as a variety of everyday food items such as a banana, a packet of crisps and a cappuccino, O’Sullivan said.
“Moderate beer consumption does not lead to weight gain or abdominal fatness (beer belly) and the perception that drinking beer results in a beer belly is not supported by the scientific evidence to date.”
Quoting various studies done across the world, O’Sullivan said there was no proof to suggest beer caused beer bellies.
“A US study found no association between waist circumference changes and moderate alcohol consumption over a nine-year period in over 16 000 men… and a study of nearly 2 000 men and women who regularly drink beer in the Czech Republic led by the University of London concluded that it is unlikely that moderate beer intake is associated with a largely increased general or abdominal weight gain,” she writes in her study.
O’Sullivan said the prevalence of obesity in Britain had reached alarming rates in the past few years, with 63 percent of adults currently overweight, 21 percent of them obese.
“There is concern that alcohol is contributing to this epidemic,” she said.
Heavy beer consumers were more likely to have greater waist circumferences than moderate beer drinkers, due to the greater calories consumed by the high-beer drinkers.
However, she added that the nutritional composition of beer had been associated positively with many health benefits, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Beer also contained a significant quantity of nutrients, such as B vitamins, silicon and fibre.
“However, taken in excess, alcohol has severe effects on the body and indeed society, but it can form part of a healthy lifestyle if taken in moderation,” she said.
Durban dietician Danielle Roberts, from the Sharks Medical Centre, agreed overconsumption of fizzy, sugary drinks, other alcoholic drinks and beer would increase fat around the waist, but only if too many kilojoules were consumed.
“Alcohol cannot actually be stored in the body, but it does add extra calories. Unfortunately, people often drink and eat at the same time, so the food and alcohol together can go over the daily allowance for energy. It is this that adds to belly fat,” she explained.
Lisa Raleigh, fitness trainer and television personality, said quantity was the ruling factor.
“Drinking, and drinking beer in particular, can certainly play a part in building a bigger belly, but its role will depend on each individual’s intake and diet.”
She added that since beer was essentially a carbohydrate, drinking it in excess would naturally increase daily calorie intake.
“One beer, for example, is on average 150 calories. If the average man were to drink eight beers in one sitting, where his recommended daily intake is 2 000 calories, he’s taken in 1 200 calories of his daily requirements, just from beer. Drinking calories in this way makes it far easier to exceed your daily limit,” she explained. - Independent on Saturday