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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2001

The war on beer bellies

Beer bellies destined for history?

Scientists say it is possible, but their current optimism has elements of pie-in-the sky. There are no new methods, beyond diet and exercise, to lose weight. But there are promising developments.

Still, for the aesthetics, as well as the health, ease, and comfort of suds-hounds with big guts, that in itself is good news.

The researchers aren't fiddling with the malt or hops ratios in beer and ale, cutting back on the sugar, or other techniques whose consequences would diminish the quality of beer and ale. Nor are they talking refinements in liposuction or tummy tucks.

Instead the inquiring minds at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have isolated an enzyme in fat cells that encourages them to cluster in the gut. Now if only they could find a way to turn it off.

There is a strong push from many quarters to find biochemical ways to curb obesity.

It's one thing for people who are merely overweight to resist the healthiest remedy of all: a combination of a healthy diet and a regular routine of exercise. They at least could embrace a healthier lifestyle if they chose to do so.

But maintaining a healthy weight is not always a matter of will power, and some people lose no weight no matter how much they exercise, while others are unable for whatever reason to alter a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits. The result: an obesity rate that is positively alarming.

The aim is not to feed vanity, but to improve health. Obesity has been indicted in a range of health disruptions. Some 90 percent of adults diagnosed diabetic are obese.

Eighty percent of those whose fat creates mammoth belly bulges are men, but that's no reason not to like these new prospects, though they are still human tests away from providing any relief. Until then, long walks and control of the elbow are the keys.

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