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Whether Beer, Wine, or Liquor, Binge Drinking Makes Belly Bigger

Sept. 2, 2009 -- That's not a beer belly -- it's a binge belly.

Waist size isn't linked to how much you drink but to how much you drink at one time, a study of 28,594 middle-aged Eastern Europeans shows.

Those who drink at least 80 grams of alcohol on one occasion, at least once a month, are about a half-inch bigger around the waist than those who drink the same amount over a week.

How much is 80 grams of alcohol? You can get about that much from:

  • A bottle of wine (70 grams of alcohol)
  • A six-pack of beer (84 grams of alcohol)
  • Six 1.5-ounce shots of 80-proof spirits (84 grams of alcohol)

Men and women who drank primarily beer were no more likely to have big bellies than those who drank wine or spirits.

The study, led by Martin Bobak of University College London, found no link between drinking and body weight in men, and found only a small effect of drinking on women's weight.

Similarly, binge drinkers were not necessarily heavier than those who did not binge -- they just had more belly fat.

But that could have important health consequences.

"Abdominal obesity is an important risk factor for diabetes and for cardiovascular disease," Bobak says in a news release. "The finding that binge drinking is related to abdominal obesity is therefore important for our understanding of the link between heavy drinking and these diseases."

Bobak reported the findings at this week's annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, held in Barcelona, Spain.

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