Bear Belly Versus Sugar Belly

Most people are aware that alcohol in excess is bad for the liver. This relates to the fact that alcohol (ethanol) can only be metabolised by the liver. In excess, the alcohol overloads the detoxification systems in the liver eventually causing cell damage. However, the energy in the ethanol also overloads the liver with calories, and this increases the synthesis of fatty acids. These fatty acids are then deposited in the liver tissue leading to alcoholic fatty liver.

Beer Belly

High intakes of alcohol can therefore cause serious liver damage if allowed to continue long term. The classic bear belly associated with beer drinkers is interesting because it may in part be caused by the accumulation of fatty acids in the liver caused by the alcohol in beer. However, that alcoholics who drink spirits do not attain such huge guts suggests that the carbohydrate content of the beer is a contributory factor in the development of a beer belly.


Ethanol can only be metabolised by the liver and this causes liver overload due to the high energy content of ethanol (7 kcal per gram). However, few realise that fructose is also only able to be metabolised by the liver, and as a result high intakes of fructose can also overload the liver with energy. The offshoot of this is non-alcoholic fatty liver, which clinically is almost indistinguishable from the alcoholic fatty liver caused by ethanol.

Metabolic Syndrome

Over consumption of fructose overloads the liver with energy and causes the deposition of fatty acids in the liver and internal organs. As this proceeds, the fat can be seen externally as belly fat. Because sugar contains a molecule of fructose joined to a molecule of glucose, overconsumption of sugar is a direct cause of this belly fat. This belly fat interferes with liver function and causes aberrations to normal metabolic function.

Sugar Belly And Cardiovascular Disease

The metabolic dysfunction caused by fat accumulation in the liver increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because belly fat causes the attraction of immune cells, and as these infiltrate the fat tissue, they release chemicals that increase oxidative stress in the body. This oxidative stress inhibits nitric oxide production in the lining of arteries, preventing their proper response to the flow of blood and this results in high blood pressure.

Lose The Belly

Preventing cardiovascular disease means avoiding liver overload and fatty liver disease, either through moderation of alcohol or the avoidance of sugar. While fruit and wine contain fructose and ethanol respectively, both are good for the health in moderation because of the other nutrients they contains. While the link between alcohol and belly fat is not strong, the link between sugar and belly fat is proven from human and animal studies. Moderate consumption of alcohol is protective of cardiovascular disease, but no benefits are known for even low sugar consumption.


My other blog