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Beer consumption and the ‘beer belly’: scientific basis or common belief?



The term ‘beer belly’ expresses the common belief that beer consumption is a major determinant of waist circumference (WC). We studied the gender-specific associations between beer consumption and WC (partially in relation to body weight and hip circumference (HC) change).


Within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)–Potsdam study (7876 men, 12 749 women), cross-sectional associations were investigated applying general linear models. Prospective analyses of baseline beer consumption and an 8.5-year WC change were assessed using multivariate general linear models and polytomous logistic regression. To test the site-specific effect of beer consumption on WC, an adjustment for concurrent changes in body weight and HC was carried out. In addition, the relationship between change in beer consumption and change in WC was studied.


A positive association in men and no association in women were seen between beer consumption and WC at baseline. Men consuming 1000 ml/d beer were at 17% higher risk for WC gain compared with very light consumers. Significantly lower odds for WC gain (odds ratio=0.88; 95% confidence interval 0.81, 0.96) were found in beer-abstaining women than in very-light-drinking women. The adjustment for concurrent body weight and HC change diminished effect estimates notably, explaining most of the association between beer and change in WC. Decreasing beer consumption was related to higher relative odds for WC loss, although not statistically significant.


Beer consumption leads to WC gain, which is closely related to concurrent overall weight gain. This study does not support the common belief of a site-specific effect of beer on the abdomen, the beer belly.

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The EPIC–Potsdam study was supported by grants from German Cancer Aid, from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the European Union.

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Correspondence to M Schütze.

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Contributors: MS, AK, HB and MS were responsible for the study design, concept and idea of the analysis. Data analysis and interpretation of the data was done by MS, HB and MS. The manuscript was drafted by MS and HB. All authors were involved into interpretation of the study results, critical review of the manuscript and contributed significantly to the content of the manuscript.

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Schütze, M., Schulz, M., Steffen, A. et al. Beer consumption and the ‘beer belly’: scientific basis or common belief?. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, 1143–1149 (2009).

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  • beer
  • waist circumference
  • abdominal fat
  • cohort studies
  • longitudinal studies

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