The Courier-Mail

BEER

RORY GIB­SON

- Food · Alcoholic Drinks · Recreation · Healthy Living · Wine · California · University of California, Santa Barbara · Beer

She is a friend of my par­ents and was kindly let­ting me stay at her house, so I couldn’t re­ally tell her she was an idiot.

But she was an ed­u­cated woman, and had worked in the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion, so she should have known bet­ter.

I was re­count­ing the story to her of how my dad had de­clared he was cut­ting back on the small amount of beer he would drink in his evening rit­ual – but not the quan­tity of food or wine he would con­sume af­ter­wards – be­cause he said it was mak­ing him fat.

De­luded, I told her. Typ­i­cal wine snob. Beer does not make you fat, any more than a lamb chop or a piece of toast does.

“Oh that’s not right,” my host said. “What about the beer belly?”

Sigh. It’s just called that be­cause peo­ple like the al­lit­er­a­tion. It could just as easily be called the dough­nut belly, or the wine belly or the Ido-bug­ger-all-ex­er­cise belly, but that doesn’t trip off the tongue quite so well, does it?

She in­sisted: “It’s a fact that men who drink a lot of beer get a par­tic­u­lar shape of gut.”

We were in a bar and I had a lovely brown ale in front of me, so I pointed to it and said: “Given most of what is in this glass is wa­ter, a tiny bit of it is al­co­hol, there is some hop flavour­ing and a few nu­tri­ents from the malt, what se­cret in­gre­di­ent is it that turns men into lard balls?”

She is typ­i­cal of the huge ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who think beer has a mys­te­ri­ous abil­ity to make men, par­tic­u­larly, fat.

It’s just rub­bish. Here’s an ex­tract from Time mag­a­zine: ‘Ac­cord­ing to Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Davis food science pro­fes­sor Charles Bam­forth, the col­lo­quial no­tion of the beer belly – that beer some­how uniquely tar­gets the gut – doesn’t jibe with med­i­cal science. “The beer belly is a com­plete myth. The main source of calo­ries in any al­co­holic bev­er­age is al­co­hol,” Bam­forth told Pop­u­lar Science.

“There’s noth­ing mag­i­cal about the al­co­hol in beer, it’s just al­co­hol.”

Al­co­hol doesn’t have VIP dibs on ab­dom­i­nal fat. It’s just another in­gre­di­ent in your caloric reg­i­men.’

The body han­dles al­co­hol in a way that is con­ducive to fat ac­cu­mu­la­tion, it is true. But it doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate be­tween al­co­hol de­liv­ered to it via beer, wine or spir­its. If you drink only wine in un­healthy quan­ti­ties, you’ll get a “beer” gut.

I say all this be­cause brew­ing ma­jor Lion has just added nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion pan­els to bot­tles and car­tons across its Aus­tralian beer port­fo­lio. Hope­fully, it will help dis­pel some of the beer myths.

In what will prob­a­bly be­come in­dus­try-stan­dard, the com­pany’s beers will carry in­for­ma­tion on sugar, preser­va­tive, calo­rie (kilo­joule) and car­bo­hy­drate con­tent.

Matt Tap­per, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of Lion’s Aus­tralian beer busi­ness says: “De­spite the fact beer is still the drink of choice for most Aus­tralians, our knowl­edge of how it’s made and what’s in it is pretty patchy.

“Most peo­ple think beer is full of sugar and preser­va­tives, when in fact our beers are preser­va­tive-free and most are on av­er­age 99.9 per cent sugar-free.

“We want to fill in the gaps for beer drinkers.” ror­cuss@gmail.com

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