Why people have seasonal weight gain

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Australians are known for their love of celebrations. Whether it’s the weekend or Christmas, Australians enjoy the festive spirit often with a bit of overindulgence. But this tendency has a downside: it contributes to weight gain.

The University of South Australia has conducted a first-of-its-kind study on this issue.

The study, which was published in JAMA Open Network, tracked changes in the weight of ordinary Australians over a year. The aim was to find ways to deal with the problems of being overweight and obesity.

The Study Findings

The study came up with some interesting findings.

Firstly, the study noted that Australians put on weight during holiday seasons. People gained a bit more weight during Easter and a lot more during the Christmas/New Year period.

Secondly, the study found a pattern in weekly weight gain. People would generally lose weight during the week and put it back on over the weekend. This caused a slight fluctuation in weight each week.

Lastly, the researchers noticed a seasonal pattern to weight gain. People were heaviest in the summer, lightest in autumn, and their weight would slowly increase during winter and early spring before dropping again towards the end of spring.

What This Means for Australians

The lead researcher, Professor Carol Maher, was concerned about these weight changes. “Obesity is a major health concern worldwide,” she said.

“It raises the risk for many preventable diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.”

Despite the risks, two out of three adults are overweight or obese.

Prof Maher pointed out that understanding the reasons for weight gain is crucial in coming up with ways to prevent it.

“We found that Australians’ weight significantly fluctuates over a year, more than our counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere,” she said.

She explained that while people in Europe and North America generally put on weight in winter and lose it in summer, Australians’ weight goes up and down twice a year.

It increases in summer, decreases in autumn, goes up again in winter, and comes down in spring.

Prof Maher added that this sort of weight fluctuation—often seen with ‘yo-yo’ dieting—is not good for health. It is associated with poor metabolic health and can lead to long-term weight gain.

The Way Forward

The study results could pave the way for new approaches to prevent weight gain.

Prof Maher said, “People tend to gain weight gradually as we age. But knowing when these weight spikes are more likely to occur can provide us with valuable information to target specific times of the year.”

She suggested that interventions and education campaigns could focus on these risk periods, particularly Christmas and winter. This could help prevent unhealthy weight fluctuations and unwanted weight gain.

She concluded, “Maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating, exercise and other health habits is important for lifelong health and well-being.

This research takes us one step closer to reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia.”

If you care about weight management, please read studies about diets that could boost your gut health and weight loss, and 10 small changes you can make today to prevent weight gain.

For more information about obesity, please see recent studies about low-carb keto diet could manage obesity effectively and results showing popular weight loss diet linked to heart disease and cancer.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

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