Health Hazards Of A Beer Belly

A beer gut is not just unattractive—it can also increase your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. The fat stored deep inside the abdomen—or visceral fat—appears to present a greater health threat than the subcutaneous fat that is stored in the hips, thighs and extremities.

Why the beer belly seems to pose a greater health danger than other kinds of fat is not totally clear, but it appears that the fat cells that lie close to our internal organs are more active than other fat cells. While subcutaneous fat cells simply store energy, visceral fat cells manufacture hormones and release chemical signals. These chemical secretions can cause inflammation and interfere with the function of the liver and other organs, leading to health problems.

The Beer Belly and Diabetes

A beer gut with excess visceral fat may interfere with liver function, raising your risk of developing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. This is because substances released by visceral fat can go directly to the liver, which increases the possibility of fat deposits inside the liver itself. These fat deposits can then lead to Type 2 diabetes.

The Beer Belly and Heart Disease

If a beer gut has a large amount of visceral fat, it can also have a negative effect on heart health. If you lose belly fat, you may lower your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You might also be able to avoid the hardening of the arteries that deliver necessary oxygen to the heart.

The Beer Belly and Cancer

A high concentration of visceral fat within a beer gut can also increase your risk of some types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer and, in women, breast cancer.

In addition, excess belly fat has been linked to:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Gallstones
  • Ovarian cystic disease
  • Sleep apnea.

Because of these health risks, doctors often recommend trying to lose belly fat if your waist circumference exceeds 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men. Though abdominal exercises like sit ups can strengthen the muscles around your midsection area, there are no targeted workout routines that can reduce fat in this area. The only way to lose belly fat is to cut back on the calories you consume and increase physical activity.


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NPR. (2008). Study offers another incentive for flat abs. Retrieved January 14, 2011 from’storyId=96922213