The ‘beer belly’ can be defined as the build-up of adipose (fat) tissue in the abdominal region that results in the protrusion of the abdomen. It is a clear sign of abdominal obesity. Fat tissue can be found as subcutaneous adipose tissue (fat under the skin) and visceral adipose tissue (fat around the organs). The visceral type of fat has been linked with significant increases in the risk of developing type two diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and a range of other chronic conditions. The Heart Foundation Australia (2018) states “Regardless of your height or build, for most adults a waist measurement of greater than 94 cm for men and 80 cm for women is an indicator of the level of internal fat deposits which coat the heart, kidneys, liver, digestive organs and pancreas. This can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.” Reducing the waist circumference, the ‘beer belly’, is the primary message of many health organisations, so how can it be done?
There are many factors that may lead to potentially dangerous levels of visceral fat. Participating in regular physical activity has been shown to help reduce waist circumference but finding the time to exercise can be difficult for many people. Increasing the amount of incidental or ‘accidental’ exercise, has been shown to help increase overall activity levels and has been shown to have certain health benefits. Examples of incidental exercise could be taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking the car further from the door, getting off the bus a stop early and getting up from your desk as often as possible.
Diet is also an important factor to aid in the reduction of visceral fat. Improving diet, eating whole foods and reducing your reliance on processed foods will certainly help to reduce visceral fat. Reducing alcohol consumption may also contribute to the reduction of the ‘beer belly’, but beer is not the only culprit! Alcoholic drinks, are higher in calories than many foods as one gram of alcohol is equivalent to 7 calories. For example, a large glass of white wine on average has 190 calories so it’s very easy to over consume.
Other factors such as smoking show a strong correlation with increasing visceral fat (Komiya et al. 2006). Reducing cigarette smoking has been linked to many health benefits, with reducing visceral fat one that could play a big part in reducing the ‘beer belly’.
With all these factors in mind reducing the famed ‘beer belly’ is not beyond your reach with small changes to your daily habits. Start small and work towards reducing your waist circumference.
Timothy Hanson AEP ESSA
• K Kishida, T Funahashi, I Shimomura, (2011) “Clinical significance of visceral fat reduction through health education in preventing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease-Lesson from the Amagaski Visceral Fat Study: A Japanese perspective” Nutrition & Metabolism [Nutr Metab (Lond)] 2011 Aug 16; Vol. 8, pp. 57. Date of Electronic Publication: 2011 Aug 16.
• The Heart Foundation Australia (2018) Waist Measurement Viewed 01/05/2018 https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/healthy-weight/waist-measurement
• H Komiya, Y Mori, T Yokose, N Tajima (2006) “Smoking as a risk factor for visceral fat accumulation in Japanese men” Tohoku J Exp Med. 2006 Feb;208(2):123-32. Viewed 01 May 2018 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16434835