The term “beer belly” gets bandied about a lot, but you might not have put too much thought into why you’d get a giant, protruding gut from suds over other types of alcoholic drinks. The easy answer is that you tend to consume a larger quantity of beer than booze or wine, but there’s a little more to it than that. Let’s take a look.

Charles Bamforth, professor of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis (as well as an Anheuser Busch-endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Science, which might raise some eyebrows), says that there is nothing especially fattening about the alcohol in beer; alcohol, no matter if it is consumed in the form of wine, whiskey, or vodka, is generally a very caloric ingredient no matter where it’s found. Although Bamforth makes a believable claim that alcohol is caloric no matter what form it takes, his bold proclamation that “the beer belly is a complete myth” may be questionable as an absolute statement.

An article on the UC Davis website points out that beer has gotten a bad rap, ever since “some diet promoters have depicted beer as an unhealthful source of fattening carbohydrates.” Bramford suggests that beer, in moderation, can be part of a “low-carb” diet. Bramford also says that beer “can potentially be a good source of soluble fiber and prebiotic substances that promote digestion.” Because alcohol contributes more to a beer’s calorie content than carbohydrates, he argues that brewers who are marketing their beers to dieters should develop sessionable beers instead of highly caloric ABV-bombs. (Of course, this brings up the whole SnackWells conundrum, when you ate twice as many cookies because they had half the fat—if you’re drinking a low-alcohol beer, you’re often tempted to consume more of it than you would an imperial stout.)

Now back to the so-called “beer belly.” The real issue is that you may be drinking larger quantities when you choose to drink beer—say four or five pints—than you would be if you were drinking glasses of wine or whiskey on the rocks. In turn, you are taking in more calories. But if you are drinking the same quantity of liquor with sugary mixers like ginger ale, cola, tonic and tomato juice, you are taking in way more calories and carbohydrates by volume than you would be if you were drinking straight suds.

What might also contribute to what you’d like to label a “beer belly,” Bramford suggests, is the quintessential beer drinker’s lifestyle choices. “The beer belly probably has more to do with the French fries and sausages eaten alongside beer,” Bramford says. And you must admit, a juicy brat and a pint of lager are a pretty perfect match.

If you are a seriously hard boozer with a protruding belly (which you may have named your “beer belly”), you could possibly just have Ascites, which is a disease that manifests in extreme alcoholics. Ascites, which is a common side effect of liver disease, is when fluid accumulates in the peritoneal cavity, causing your belly to stick out.

Moral of the story: Beer bellies are not caused by the excessive amount of carbohydrates in beer versus other types of alcohol. Getting fat is just a common side effect of overindulging in anything, whether it be beer, whiskey, cronuts, or sausages.

Glas we cleared that up. Time for a beer.

[via POPSCI, UC Davis News]