Holiday weight gain is a worldwide phenomenon, study suggests

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The holidays that we celebrate may vary among countries, but many share one feature—eating more of certain foods. An international team of researchers decided to see if holiday indulgences were routinely associated with weight gain. They studied people celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, Easter in Germany, and Golden Week (April 29 to May 5) in Japan, as well as Christmas in all three countries.

The researchers followed 2,924 adults in their 40s for one year. About one-third of the German and American participants and about one-fourth of the Japanese were women. The participants weighed themselves daily using "smart scales," which transmitted the readings to a computer log.

The team found that in all three countries, participants' weights were about 0.5% higher 10 days after Christmas than they were 10 days before. The volunteers also gained an average of 0.2% to 0.3% over the other holidays. The study was published Sept. 22, 2016, in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers cautioned that people tend to retain about half of their holiday weight gain. Even if that gain is relatively small—averaging a pound or two for participants in this study—the pounds can mount over the years.