Beer Belly: How Alcohol Leads To Abdominal Obesity

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Update Date 11/05/2020 . 2 mins read

If you recently visited the cinema to watch Avengers Endgame, you will definitely remember witnessing the effect of heavy, chronic alcohol consumption – beer belly, or medically known as abdominal obesity. That’s right even the physiology of the god of thunder isn’t safe from the effect of alcohol.

So, how does alcohol consumption lead to beer belly?

The basic rule of weight gain is you gain weight by creating caloric surplus. Once you consume more calories than needed, these unused excess energy will be converted into fats. 1 gram of fats provide the most energy with a value of 9 calories while 1 gram of alcohol sits slightly lower with 7.1 calories. Usually, when our energy intake is sufficient or slightly above required amount, our satiety center will be stimulated, demotivating further addition of energy. However, several studies suggest that consuming alcohol before or during a meal does not influence the amount of food eaten in that meal, despite increasing the energy density of the meal. As such, heavy drinking and binge drinking have been more consistently linked with fat formation compared to light-to-moderate alcohol intake.

Furthermore, beyond adding energy to a meal, alcohol may actually stimulate more food intake. A review of 17 studies on alcohol, appetite and energy balance found that 10 of them showed increased food intake following alcohol consumption. Even when the presence of alcohol was disguised, studies found that it sill led to increased energy intake. Alcohol may amplify individuals’ perception of appetite in response to food stimuli which can be explained through alcohol’s modifying effect on hormones linked to satiety and hunger. For example, alcohol was found to inhibit the effect of Leptin, a hormone that is responsible for  generating the sensation of satiety. Alcohol has also been found to inhibits fat oxidation (the breakdown of fats), suggesting that frequent alcohol consumption could lead to fat sparing, and thus higher body fat in the long term.

In other words, alcohol consumption sort of remove the barriers which prevents us from overeating or eating beyond our caloric needs. Coupled with the high energy content of alcohol, accumulation of fat cells amplifies in the body.

Alright, but why the abdomen?

Male and female have different distribution and accumulation of fat cells. While initially, pattern of fat storage is similar, puberty changes that. Women have more subcutaneous fat (the kind under the skin) than men. Plus, their fats tend to accumulate around the buttock and thigh. Because men have less subcutaneous fat, they store more of them around the midsection. Hence, for males, those excess energy from the alcohol intake goes to the abdomen and give rise to the infamous beer belly. It is also worth noting that aging contributes to fats accumulation as well and this is because your metabolism slows down as you age. Furthermore, hormone levels also decline as you age.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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