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Even slight holiday weight gain can set stage for obesity, health risks

DALLAS Dec. 12, 2006 -- Although some Americans gain five to seven pounds with a diet of big meals and sweets between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, most people only gain a pound or two during the holidays, according to a UT Southwestern Medical Center registered dietitian.

But even a slight weight gain, if left intact, can accumulate yearly and endanger health.

"The problem is in gaining a pound or two and not working it off, even with good intentions and New Years resolutions. The gain stays on and adds up each year; in a decade its 10 or 20 pounds," said Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition. "That can lead to obesity and related health problems such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and other maladies."

So how can people avoid adding holiday weight?

Healthy food choices, eating habits, food preparation and exercise, Ms. Sandon said.

"First, focus on choosing healthy foods instead of concentrating on what you shouldnt have," she said. "For instance, seek out cranberries, which have a high level of antioxidants, which protect cells and help the body block urinary-tract infections and prevent plaque formation on teeth."

Ms. Sandon listed several other healthy or calorie-saving food choices:

  • Fresh game, such as venison or wild turkey, is usually leaner than store-bought meat.

  • Salad with leafy greens and colorful vegetables is a high-fiber, low-calorie choice.

  • Nuts are regarded as "heart-healthy." Research suggests walnuts have cardiovascular benefits; pecans, peanuts and other nuts have "good" fats.

  • Sweet potatoes contain Vitamin A essential to a strong immune system.

  • A glass of red wine, which has been found to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, is less caloric that a glass of eggnog.

The key is moderation, Ms. Sandon said. Eating large po
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Contact: Cliff Despres
Cliff.Despres@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
12-Dec-2006


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