We’ve got some good news and some bad news. Maybe you’ve heard the frightening statistic that Americans gain an average of seven pounds over the holidays? Well, you can let out a sigh of relief: apparently that’s a myth.
BUT WAIT! Don’t bite into that pecan pie just yet! We still haven’t gotten to the bad news.
While a 2000 study concluded that Americans don’t gain an average of 7 pounds, they did find that weight gain over the holidays does exist. It’s a whopping one pound.
Now, this may not sound like much, but the study also found that this one pound is likely permanent. That means it’ll probably be with you a lot longer than that pair of shoes you got for Christmas. Another study found that weight gain during the 6-week holiday season explained 51% of annual weight gain. Fast forward years, decades, and it can be easy to see this can significantly contribute to adulthood obesity. And remember, this is an average. You could be well over or under that number. Also of note, the study recorded a 5 pound average weight gain for people who were already overweight.
The Merry Christmas Coronary
The next frightening statistic isn’t a myth, though we wish it was: Christmas and New Year’s Day experience the highest incidents of deadly heart attacks. One explanation is that colder weather causes blood vessels to constrict (less blood near the skin means less bodyheat lost to the surrounding environment), upping blood pressure and making the heart work harder. But that doesn’t explain the specific Christmas and New Year’s timing. Nor why the trend was observed across the country, even in warmer places like Los Angeles.
Dr. Robert Koner, a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California whose team published this 1999 heart attack study in Circulation , said that many holiday-specific factors could be the cause. “People tend to gain weight during the holiday season and take in more salt, which can put additional stress on a weakened heart,” Kloner said.
People have different Christmas lists, but we think it’s safe to assume that no one wants a pound of fat or a heart attack waiting for them under the tree this holiday season. Be smart, be active, stay informed, and enjoy the winter months!