Regular drinking adds 4in to women's waists... and 2in on men's beer bellies

Daily Mail - 5 September 2009

Regularly downing a bottle of wine in a single session could result in four inches extra around a woman's waist. It not only produces 'muffin tops' - the unsightly rolls of fat that bulge over waistbands - it's bad for women's health.

Men who binge drink similar amounts - around five pints of beer or ten shots of vodka - could see their waist size increase by at least two inches. For the first time, researchers believe they have identified the link between drinking and abdominal obesity, which helps trigger diabetes and heart disease. They blame it on the pattern of drinking, when large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a session instead of being spread over a period of time.

In fact, the classic beer belly is a bit of a myth because men who drink beer regularly - around two pints a day - barely see a change in their girth. The findings come from a 'snapshot' study of almost 30,000 people between 2002 and 2005 by researchers at University College London.

It involved men and women aged 45-69 in Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic, and was based on questionnaires and confirmatory medical testing. Binge drinkers, who made up 20 per cent of the study, were defined as drinking 80-100g of alcohol - ten to 12 units - on one occasion at least once a month. Men developed waists that were on average 6cm (2in) bigger than people who did not binge drink. Women gained almost twice as much, around 10cm (4in) compared with non-binge drinkers. It was not clear from the study how long people would have to drink in this way to end up with bigger stomachs.The findings were released yesterday at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Barcelona.

Professor Martin Bobak, who led the study, said: 'Binge drinking is common in parts of Eastern Europe and is also becoming common in many parts of Western Europe.' The research found that the effect of binge drinking was independent from the amount of alcohol drunk in a year. Professor Bobak said: 'It's not necessarily the volume but the pattern.' He said women were more at risk because in general they have a smaller body mass in which to dispose of the alcohol.

Professor Bobak said it was unclear why sporadic heavy drinking should increase abdominal fat, but it may be part of an unhealthy lifestyle. Some research also suggested that stress was to blame. Binge drinking in the UK is defined as five drinks or more consumed on one occasion - with a drink, or unit, being a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a pub measure of spirits. But a standard glass of wine served in Britain is 175mls, which can be 2.5 units if the wine is strong.

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