By Margarita Nahapetyan
The scientists from Sweden and Germany have come to the conclusion that a beer-belly is not associated with drinking alcohol, but is purely the result of genetics. A study of thousands of beer lovers discovered that in spite of the fact that people who drink on a regular basis are more likely to gain extra weight, they do not necessarily accumulate fat around the abdomen.
For the study purposes, the investigators tracked more than 20,000 beer drinkers - 7,876 men and 12,749 women - for an average period of eight-and-a-half years. The heaviest drinkers - those who consumed more than one liter of alcohol on a daily basis - were found to put on the most weight. However, when the experts then measured their hip-to-waist ratios in order to determine which drinkers developed a pot belly, the results were randomly spread across individuals in all drinking groups.
At the start of the study, researchers measured the weight of all the participants as well as their waist and hip circumference and after that asked the subjects to write down their measurements on a regular basis themselves. The results were adjusted for factors, such as illness, the menopause, diet habits and smoking.
The results revealed that the male participants who were most likely to put on extra pounds, were those who consumed alcohol the most and also those who did not drink beer at all. Light to moderate drinkers did not show much variation in their waist size. As to female participants, drinking more beer was more directly linked to gaining extra weight. But for both men and women, drinking beer was associated with overall weight gain on both the waist and the hips, and was not necessarily related to a beer belly.
According to the authors, their analysis demonstrated "the empirical basis for the common belief of a beer belly," as it was found found that consumption of beer and waist circumference were positively associated. 'However, our data provided only limited evidence for a site-specific effect of beer drinking on waist circumference, and beer consumption seems to be rather associated with an increase in overall body fatness," they wrote.
The scientists concluded that the most significant factor that was contributing to the weight gain was genetics, and not the drinking of beer. But they still insist that their findings do not suggest that alcohol consumption should be encouraged, and recommend those who want to avoid putting on extra pounds to give up alcohol completely.
They said that in terms of public health relevance, it may be therefore important to focus on beer abstention to maintain body weight. And in terms of the beer belly belief, "an explanation could be that all the observed beer bellies in the population result from the natural variation in fat patterning and not from the fact of drinking beer."
The findings are published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.