“Beer belly,” or increased deep visceral fat, is a condition that is gaining more focus after the release of Beer Belly Blues, a book by author Brad King. Sometimes used as a point of humor and often referred to as a “beer gut,” this form of obesity can lead to some very serious health conditions. Diabetes, heat attack and high cholesterol can stem from having a beer belly. Not a laughing matter. • Johann H. Farley, M.D. at Methodist Hospitals in Merrillville, Indiana, answers a few questions about beer bellies and what those who suffer from it can do.
Q: What is the condition most commonly referred to as a “beer belly” in men? One too many calories—not limited to beer drinking only—each day can turn your abs of steel into bowls full of jelly, and the true culprit is actually the amount of calories one takes in each day.
Q: What are the dangers of this condition? Is it any worse than other forms of obesity? Having a beer belly can cause you more than just self-image problems. It can also be a serious health risk. Excess fat in that location heightens the risk for a number of serious health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction and diabetes.
Q: How can men prevent this condition? And, if the condition already exists, how can one effectively lose his “beer belly”? Prevention and treatment are much the same and require discipline. Beer bellies are hard to live with, but they’re even harder to get rid of. Follow these directions: Modify your beer intake, eat four or five small meals throughout the day instead of eating three big ones, consult your physician, make a concerted effort to eat healthier foods, include intense aerobic exercise in your routine three to four days a week. Sit-ups are great for strengthening the lower back and abdominal muscles, but they do nothing to the body fat in those areas. Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise is the only way the body metabolizes fat; have more sex, and play sports.
Q: The new book Beer Belly Blues, by Brad King, suggests beer bellies are a form of male menopause. Have you heard of this, and what are your thoughts? Menopause is not a chronic illness but rather a passage. Beer belly is a form of obesity, which can exhibit itself in the twenties through the forties. Therefore, it is not a male menopausal sign, although a great number [of cases] fall in middle-age men who have a sedentary lifestyle and are buffet frequent flyers. In other words, beer belly is a preventable condition as opposed to menopause, which is not [preventable], or at least not currently.
Q: If a patient came to you with this condition, what would be your first course of action? Increase compliance by developing rapport with the patient, educating him, and setting achievable goals and plans.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about this condition? Obesity and beer belly are chronic illnesses that require a consultation with one’s own physician. Your physician can help you establish an exercise plan and can give a dietary consult to plan a diet low in glycemic index.