Whether you refer to it as a “beer belly,” “gut,” or a “spare tire,” everyone understands, and many can probably relate. A beer belly refers to the excess abdominal fat that often causes stomachs to protrude or extend over the beltline.

Is a beer belly really from too much beer?

One of the common misconceptions about beer bellies is that only drinking beer causes them. But any kind of excessive calorie intake adds to your midsection. Beer’s bad rap likely comes from the fact it tends to be consumed in greater volume than other drinks with higher alcohol percentages. Your average beer contains 150 calories and 5% alcohol content. That makes it easier to drink multiple in one sitting, quickly leading to an excess calorie load.

Beer bellies or excess belly fat occurs as a result of a consistent calorie overload of any kind. Whether they come from sugary foods, highly processed foods, or alcohol, all calories lead to fat storage in the body once they surpass your body’s metabolism level. Men are often more associated with this kind of fat retention than women since their bodies tend to store fat in their bellies. Women tend to keep more fat on their thighs, buttocks, and hips.

The consequences of a beer belly

A beer belly can have inconvenient consequences on your everyday size or wardrobe. But much more dangerous are the long-term effects on your health and the way they affect your present and long-term quality of life. An elevated waist circumference leads to an increase in health risks such as developing hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, joint pain, erectile dysfunction, and fatty liver disease. The older you get, the more your health risks increase which may result in death.

Another sign to watch out for is the hardening of an enlarged midsection. If you’ve had a beer belly for a while, it’s more likely to become quite firm due to an increase in internal organ fat. That fat begins to store inside and around the organs themselves, causing them to push the abdominal wall even further out. The fat that forms in between and inside your internal organs is called “visceral fat” and it can be extremely dangerous.

The presence of noticeable visceral fat dramatically increases your health risks, including a risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s. It is important to take action to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular fitness. Working to lose weight by making dietary changes, such as cutting out or reducing highly processed or sugary foods and alcohol, can decrease the possibility of an early death for the individual and help maintain your health as you age. Adding exercise to your weekly routine and heart-healthy dietary changes can make a significant difference.