Beer belly: End of a myth?


The new year is here and with it the lists of good intentions. Every year, dieting is on top of the list and men make an annual solemn promise to work off their weight, because 50% of men in Belgium have a BMI rating that is too high.

Many people believe that beer contains more calories than other alcoholic beverages such as wine. 75% of women overestimate the number of calories in beer. 10% believe falsely that beer contains fat. However, drinking beer in moderation does not result in a ‘beer belly’.

This was confirmed by nutritionist Dr. Kathryn O’Sullivan from Manchester. She has over 20 years of experience. As a clinical dietitian she conducts research on public health and healthy nutrition. O’Sullivan published a study about calories in beer and found that contrary to popular belief, drinking beer does not automatically result in weight gain. Moreover, of all alcoholic beverages, beer contains the fewest calories. The alcohol level determines the number of calories, the higher the alcohol content, the more calories. Even in comparison with a tall cappuccino, a half pint of beer provides fewer calories (almost half as much: a half pint 88 kcal vs tall cappuccino 168 kcal). As long as there is a balance between calories taken and calories burned, you will not gain extra pounds.

O’Sullivan confirmed that the beer belly is a myth. Occasionally drinking a beer doesn’t automatically lead to a beer belly. An excess of calories resulting in weight gain and, depending on the personal instance, accumulates fat mainly on the level of the hips (pear-shaped) or at the level of the abdomen (apple formation). The latter is commonly known as the ‘beer belly’, but according to scientific research this has nothing to do with beer consumption.

Beer has health benefits in moderation. Moderate beer drinkers have a normal to low BMI. Drinking beer in moderation can therefore fit into a healthy lifestyle. She said: “Enjoyed in moderation, beer, like wine, can provide many essential vitamins and minerals and moderate consumption may also protect against many conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.”