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What is a Beer Belly?

Let us tell you a little story about a very jolly man in a lovely red suit.

He is particularly well known for his red suit trimmed with fluffy white fur. That’s right. We’re talking about Santa Claus. Santa Claus is very well known to the majority of the western world for his jolly temperament and his large round belly. In Australia, a physique such as Santa’s with a large, rounded abdomen is often referred to as having a “beer belly”.

So what IS a beer belly? How does it affect health and how is it related to diet? 

Fat, or adipose tissue is more than a simple storage organ. It is a metabolically active tissue which interacts with our body via hormone signaling and other chemical messaging. Adipose tissue is really important and in fact essential for life and crucial to good health, however when our bodies become overwhelmed by long term excessive consumption of sugar and starch, insulin resistance may develop and our adipose tissue can be a major player in this process. 

Let us explain more. 

It is important to understand that there are two different types of fat that we store.  Subcutaneous fat, which is the fat we store just under the skin, and visceral fat, the fat which wraps around our internal organs.  Visceral fat is the fat which accumulates to create the appearance of a “beer belly”.

Where you store your fat is dependent on many factors that are not within your control, including genetics and your sex and even your age, but it can have enormous implications for your health.

Subcutaneous fat, the fat which sits just under the skin is metabolically active but it is less involved in the development of insulin resistance and the cardiovascular implications of insulin resistance, however for those who have an accumulation of visceral fat, a beer belly, like Santa Claus, this is unhealthy. It is something you should address and change for the sake of your future well-being. 

Why is visceral fat so unhealthy?

In visceral fat the individual fat cells or adipocytes tend to become quite enlarged. Visceral fat is an active immune organ with its own immune system. Visceral body fat is inflammatory. These enlarged fat cells begin to leak out cytokines and other immune mediators which attract more immune cells. This creates a vicious cycle of inflammation all throughout the visceral body fat. The end result is impaired glucose metabolism, increased insulin resistance and increased inflammation throughout the entire body. A sign of inflammation which your doctor can test for is an elevated CRP, C-Reactive Protein. This is a blood marker of inflammation, an increased level of which can be a significant risk factor for heart disease.

The cytokines from fat (adipose tissue) are known as adipokines. Your visceral fat, your “beer belly” is like an inflammation factory. Pumping out adipokines that go all over your body, causing: 


  • Joint pains
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping


So how do we close down the inflammation factory? How do we get relief from these symptoms?


Mainstream advice recommends adopting a calorie deficit, and although in the short term this may be effective, it is the gateway to yo-yo dieting, and can have negative impacts on your metabolism and mental health. 


At Real Life Medicine we advocate for a much more sustainable way of eating.

We want you to nourish your body and treat the upstream causes of the increased visceral fat, namely the high insulin levels. To reduce visceral fat and counter insulin resistance:

  1. Eat a delicious low carb, real food diet.
  2. Move your beautiful body in sports and activities that you enjoy
  3. Once you are established and feeling well on a low carb real food diet and your woodshed is open, you can throw in some intermittent fasting. (Read more about our favourite woodshed analogy here).

When you reduce the excess quantities of sugar and starch and processed food in your diet, your amazing, clever, beautiful body will do the rest.

To help you on your journey we have written a free e-book. The Doctors' Guide to Real Health and Weight Loss which you can download here: https://www.rlmedicine.com/new-insulin-book



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