Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 01:30 pm

Does drinking beer cause a beer belly?

The infamous term “beer belly” implies that a large belly is the result of drinking beer. However, according to Johannesburg-based private practice dietitian Ashleigh Caradas, it is unlikely that beer is the entire cause of such tremendous tummies.

“The term ‘beer belly’ is something of a myth,” said Caradas, explaining that such bellies (or, more generally speaking, weight gain) usually results from too high an intake of kilojoules, relative to those burnt off. 

Weight gain cannot usually be linked solely to one source or poor habit. The issue at hand, instead, is that of moderation and kilojoule control, says Caradas. “While beer would indeed contribute to a person’s kilojoule intake, it is often only a small part of the equation.”

For example, overeating, particularly without a lot of exercise, does cause weight gain.  To illustrate the point, Caradas explains that a beer contains around 630 kilojoules (150 calories) and approximately 12 grams of carbohydrates, which is less than the energy found in a slice of bread, further dispelling the urban legend that a single beer is more fattening than a whole loaf of bread. 

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The so-called “myth of the beer belly” and Caradas’s assertions about kilojoule intake being more problematic than beer itself has gained global traction in recent years. Articles on the myth have appeared as far and wide as TIME MagazineThe TelegraphHuffington Post and the BBC, as dieticians around the globe seek to dispel the notion that you need to give up your favourite pint to combat your boep.

Everything in moderation

There is an old saying ‘everything in moderation’ and this is a point stressed by Caradas. “Moderate consumption in conjunction with a healthy diet should not lead to weight gain, provided calorie and carbohydrates are controlled elsewhere in the daily diet. In fact, research has shown that people who consume a moderate amount of alcohol actually live longer than those who abstain entirely.”

The South African Breweries (SAB), the country’s biggest brewer, advises that adults adhere to theSouth African Department of Health’s published guidelines in terms of what is regards as sensible drinking. “This is not more than two beers a day for men and not more than one beer a day for women,” said SAB spokesperson Robyn Chalmers.

Recommended reading: How healthy are the men in your life? 

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.