5 pounds of holiday heft

“The average American gains five pounds over the holiday season.”
It’s a common assertion over the holiday season, but where is the evidence?

A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain” from the New England Journal of Medicine (published March 23, 2000) investigated this claim and found that Americans experience a net 0.48-kg weight gain in the fall and winter. “Since this gain is not reversed during the spring or summer months,” the study found, “[the weight gained] probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood.”

Two more recent studies also investigate the 5 pound phenomena.
The effect of the Thanksgiving holiday on weight gain.” from the Nutrition Journal (published 21 November 2006) and “The effect of the holiday season on body weight and composition in college students” from Nutrition and Metabolism (published December 2006) assessed potential changes that occur in body weight during the Thanksgiving holiday break in college students and found participants gained a significant amount of BW (0.5 kg) during the Thanksgiving holiday. “While an increase in BW of half a kilogram may not be cause for alarm,” the authors noted, “the increase could have potential long-term health consequences if participants retained this weight gain throughout the college year.” In fact, although average body weight remained relatively unchanged from pre-Thanksgiving to post-New Year’s, a significant positive relationship existed between the change in BMI and percent fat, total fat mass, total fat free mass, and trunk fat mass for the pre-Thanksgiving and post-New Year’s visits.

So what is to be done about it?
A study from the International Journal of Obesity (London) looked at “The role of conjugated linoleic acid in reducing body fat and preventing holiday weight gain.” Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), is a naturally occurring dietary fatty acid shown to reduce body fat in animals. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study among overweight adults, 3.2 g/day CLA significantly reduced body fat over 6 months and prevented weight gain during the holiday season. “Although no adverse effects were seen,” the study reports, “additional studies should evaluate the effect of prolonged use of CLA.”

Can’t get your hands on linoleic acid isomers?
Check out these tips on having a healthy holiday:

  • Heft for the Holidays: How to Hold Off Those Extra Pounds from NIH News in Health
  • Healthy Holiday Eating from SAMHSA’s Family guide
  • Holidays the Healthy Way from the CDC
  • Holiday Meal Planning from the American Diabetes Association
  • Seasonal Food Safety from the USDA
  • Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday from the USDA
  • The Louisiana 2 Step Initiative
  • Surviving Thanksgiving: Keep Food Safe, Don?óÔé¼Ôäót Overindulge from the LSU AgCenter