Are beer bellies a myth?

Beer Belly

Is the beer belly a reality or a fantasy? Here’s another random expert claiming to have “calculated” that the beer belly is a myth:

TIME: Beer Bellies Are a Myth 

It reminds me of the old idea that the bumblebee can’t fly, according to the laws of aerodynamics. Supposedly it’s too heavy for its small wings (but by now science has figured out exactly how it works).

If the problem with alcohol was only due to calories, both wine and spirits should be worse for our weight than beer. But in language after language there exists a special word for “beer belly”, but not for “wine belly”. Here are a few examples:

  • German: Bierbauch
  • Spanish: Panza de cerveza
  • Dutch: Bierbuik
  • Estonian: Õllekõht
  • Swedish: Ölmage

The difference can be explained by the fact that beer isn’t just full of alcohol. It also contains plenty of rapidly digested carbs, that raise the blood sugar and the fat-storing hormone insulin. Thus beer has a different hormonal effect than wine. Beer tends to promote fat storage.

Beer bellies can’t be explained by calorie counting, but that doesn’t mean that reality is a myth. It’s just another example of how often simplistic calorie thinking misses the point.

More on silly calorie counting


  1. FrankG
    It seems that some folks have become so reliant on "science" and the opinion of "experts" that their own common sense and the evidence of their own eyes is no longer counted as a credible source.

    Sure there s nothing special about beer targeting belly fat anymore than situps (crunches) do but excess fat mass, especially in males (who demographically are the heavier beer drinkers) tends to build up around the waist -- or more precisely I should say "in" the abdomen... the omentum and organs like the liver

  2. Ana Muñiz
    Andreas: The correct translation into spanish (from Spain) would be "barriga cervecera"
    And yes beer and soda for diabetics are the worst drinks
    Reply: #3
  3. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    Perhaps both are used depending on where you are?

    "Panza de cerveza" has more hits on Google. 164 000 vs 97 000.

    Reply: #14
  4. Daniel Ferreira
    It is interesting to see how people that dont drink beer, still have beer bellies. it is also interesting to see how they know beer causes such physical change, but they cant believe that bread does the same thing.

    id say beer belly should be called "bread belly",

    and ive notice that people that drink alot of soda usually dont have "beer bellies" but have either a belly that hangs down or is skinny fat.

    just my observation.

    Reply: #5
  5. S. Andrei Ostric
    I personally think that it is a possibility that beer doesn't create a beer belly if you consider the following: What foods do people eat with beer? Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbeque, and Chinese food. Likewise, if you drink a lot of beer, then often people get munchies late at night (if you have ever gone to college you know this to be true) and often people eat late night breakfasts, hamburgers, etc. as well. The carbs in beer may stimulate this hunger pattern, as 'insulin theory' might suggest, but it's hard to deny that part of it has to do with the general culture of beer, ie what foods it is eaten with.

    What do you think, Doc? After all, do most people have beer with a nice fish dinner, that is generally low carb? Likewise, steak dinners are served with wine in most cases. Likewise, if you see the "paradox" countries, such as Spain, Greece, Italy, France, they (a) don't drink beer but also (b) eat a lot of foods that pair better with wine, are wine-drinking countries traditionally, and don't consume a ton of carbs.

    My point is only this: beer bellys are probably only partly caused by beer.

  6. Ray
    The most carb-heavy beers come in around 20 grams. It is hard to imagine that causing a lot of problems.
    Reply: #9
  7. murray
    I am a wine drinker, not a beer drinker, but I wonder much residual maltose is actually in beer after fermentation? I have not measured blood glucose in response to drinking a beer. It would be interesting to see some actual data on residual sugar in beer after brewing or some actual blood sugar measurements in response to drinking beer.
  8. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    How many beer-lovers do you know that stop after one?
  9. bill
    I call it a "Bread Gut" and beer is just liquid bread.
  10. another kind of belly
    Ok i hope someone can answer to my question.
    I am on a high fat low carb diet from one year and more. At first month i loose 5 kilos. But since today i cant remove all my fat from my belly. But why? I am sstrickt to what i eat. I read something that nobody talk here. We make at puberthy time faty cells that later we only fill in and out. Ok how to remove these cells not only to empty them? How i can be skiny? Thank you.
    Reply: #12
  11. FrankG
    My understanding is that fat cells can only expand so far... after that we grow extra ones. Unfortunately it seems that once we grow these additional fat cells they do not go away again, even if they end up being surplus to requirements. It may also be that these new cells are especially efficient at storing fat.

    This may be at least part of the explanation why so many previously overweight/obese folks (including myself) meet a stubborn wall where they cannot shed that last few pounds.

    On the other had I have lost significant fat mass and all my health markers are excellent, so I am very content with where I am; despite not getting back to the "fighting weight" I enjoyed in my early 20's, oh so many years ago :-)

  12. Lewis
    As well as the obvious points you make, Andreas, I wonder about this.

    The SCD people put beer on their "illegal" list because they say that some of the sugars in it - specifically, maltose I think - are hard to break down. Presumably, the reason for this would be that what's left hanging around might feed the wrong sort of bacteria and encourage bacterial overgrowth. (Not encouraging overgrowth of the wrong bacteria is what the SC Diet, which is aimed at people with digestive issues, is all about.)

    Now might this also be something of an issue even for people who haven't got actual disorders? It's common for people to complain of "bloating" after a night on the beer, being troubled with a temporarily swollen stomach and gas that would produced by bacteria.

    Is it possible that people who're drinking more beer than is perhaps wise on a daily basis have changed their gut flora and some of that belly is gas and maybe even a pound or so of unnecessary bacteria?

    I'm sure most of it is fat caused by upsetting one's blood-sugar, but maybe there are other factors at work, too.

    In any event, I'm sure that this is a biochemical question not a question of simplified energetics based on back of the envelope calculations and ignoring what's really going on in the body. If you passed a foodstuff through a plastic tube would you get energy out the other end? No, because nothing's been done to it. Exactly what happens when and how is down to what's going on in the body, and that's going to be a very complex question.

    By the way, I just came back from the supermarket and on the rack was a newspaper bearing a headline. In letters about an inch high on the frontpage the paper was screaming that red meat would give us all diabetes. Whatever will "researchers" [sic] claim next? And what lengths are people going to go to in order to close their eyes to the obvious and pretend that refined carbohydrate and specially sugar and HFCS are not responsible for this and many other health problems. Bah!

    I just looked up the silly newspaper online. Here it is:

  13. Roberto
    Well in mexico will be "Panza chelera"
  14. that belly
    Well how to remove these cells from my belly. I think that this kind of matter is not known yet. Some people eat a lot of sugar and they are skinny. Me for example if i start again to eat sugar i will fill my faty cells. I just dont get it...
    Reply: #16
  15. FrankG
    Each of us is unique... just like everyone else :-)
  16. GeorgeJ
    Locally brewed beer, in moderation, is such a treat. My understanding is most is not pasteurized and therefore contributes to gut flora rather than take away,
  17. Pilly
    I typically drink 12-20 beer a day for the past 20 years(ya,ya,i know),at 6'2 230 i figured i wanted to loose some in the winter,did some research,found all the great lchf people dropped to 208 in a few weeks,goal was 200-205,i had dropped to under 200 years before on a starvation type thing and was skin and bones and looking sickly ,long life of farm labour.Starting experimenting on myself,on beer off beer,wine no wine and vodka no vodka.My own experience,weight gain with beer,stabilized weight with wine and drop in weight with vodka,all while cutting out food carbs.

    At the start maybe came close to full ketosis,but WOW that was a trip worth taking,could only compare it to mild drug that never left,and i've done most in my past.

  18. Earlene
    It is funny that I have the same weight gain/maintenance/loss with these types of alcohol like Pilly. I do not know why, but after drinking a beer I almost always need to gorge myself with everything, while drinking wine or vodka had not such effects on me.

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