Warning! That Beer Belly Can Kill You

belly, obese

Source: iStock

The dreaded beer belly: Even the thinnest of men can fall victim to carrying an extra pudge in the middle, and it may be doing more than causing you to feel uncomfortable when you look in the mirror. This happens to be a common male condition known as skinny fat, where men gain weight in certain areas, such as the gut area, and not others. Sports medicine expert Dr. Dennis Cardone at NYU Langone Medical Center explains to Men’s Fitness that carrying extra fat around the middle is the worst kind of ‘skinny fat’ because it leads to a high risk of health complications that can lead to an early death.

Dr. Cardone says that ones propensity to gain weight in certain areas can be blamed mostly on genetics. “Nearly all issues of where fat deposits build up are based on genetics, or an imbalance in the levels of testosterone and estrogen” he explains. “Many things can impact this balance, including…alcohol and aging. Men produce less testosterone as they age, which can increase the ratio of estrogen in the body.” It may be time to put down the alcohol — your waist size and life depend on it.

Alarming new research about how weight affects mortality risk shows that being skinny fat and having a beer gut, besides identifying it as an unfavorable aesthetic, could actually be worse than being obese all over. The published research in journal Annals of Internal Medicine discovered,

Persons with normal-weight central obesity had the worst long-term survival. For example, a man with a normal BMI [Body Mass Index] and central obesity had greater total mortality risk than one with similar BMI but no central obesity, and this man had twice the mortality risk of participants who were overweight or obese according to BMI only.

This means that those men who are generally slim may have a normal BMI (how heavy you are given your height) even if they’re nursing a beer gut, whereas someone who’s heavy all over is going to have a higher weight for their height range, thus registering a higher BMI. The study basically pinpoints that having a skinnier build (or a low BMI) does not cancel out any extra weight you’re carrying around your midsection. In fact, and here’s the kicker of the study — it might put you at twice the mortality risk of those that are just plain overweight all over with a higher BMI.

There’s a reason why carrying extra weight around your middle can be deadly. According to a CNN report, it’s likely due to your biological geography. Most of your vital organs are located around your middle, so those extra pounds, or visceral fat, around your waist can be harmful. If you’re currently packing a beer belly and have been dutifully frightened by this diagnosis, all hope is not lost.

Losing it may be as simple as changing around your lifestyle — small steps to start. Manhattan-based physical trainer Francisco “Cisco” Liuzzi, who primarily works with lean, low-body fat percentage endurance athletes like cyclists, says to Men’s Health that your skinny fat physique can be easily fixed because it’s largely diet related. If you’re skinny everywhere else that means that you indeed have a fast metabolism, so “increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, lean sources of protein and complex carbohydrates while eliminating sugary foods, processed foods, most juices and anything that comes in a wrapper.” Liuzzi also recommends adding regular cardio workouts and a steady routine of body resistance to your weekly workouts to see even faster results.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: