Holford: “Research has shown that women in particular tend to put on 7 pounds a year”

In the holiday season, people often worry about weight gain. I’m not sure that things quite add up with Holford’s blog’s contribution to the discussion, though. A contributor has blogged that

Research has shown that women in particular tend to put on 7 pounds a year. This steady weight gain is often linked to the excesses of the festive season, which are not discontinued come January, so more weight piles on year after year.

Assuming that a women starts out at 150lb at 18, a steady weight gain of 7lb/year would mean that she reached 500lb by her 68th birthday. This type of sustained weight gain is – clearly – unusual. While I am not sure on what research ‘has shown’ this level of weight gain, I suspect that things may be rather more complicated than the blog post suggests.


Filed under patrick holford

3 responses to “Holford: “Research has shown that women in particular tend to put on 7 pounds a year”

  1. Perhaps this “research” will result in the creation of women’s over-60’s sumo-wrestling leagues? I’m sure we could find a turkey farm to sponsor it.

  2. I’ve tried, but have had no luck tracking down the research that is briefly mentioned (but of which no detail is provided). There’s no link, the authors are not named, and there is no reference to which journal (if any) this research appeared in.

    I did find some interesting discussion of weight gain though:

    From the results section of the abstract: As compared with their weight in late September or early October, the study subjects had an average net weight gain of 0.48±2.22 kg in late February or March (P=0.003). Between February or March and the next September or early October, there was no significant additional change in weight (gain, 0.21 kg±2.3 kg; P=0.13) for the 165 participants who returned for follow-up.

    From the conclusions section of the abstract:
    The average holiday weight gain is less than commonly asserted. Since this gain is not reversed during the spring or summer months, the net 0.48-kg weight gain in the fall and winter probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood.

    I might have gone wrong somewhere, but it looks to me like the average weight gain in the NEJM study is roughly 1.5 pounds per year (combining the weight gain from Sep/Oct to Feb/Mar and the subsequent weight gain from Feb/Mar to the next Sep/Oct gives me 0.48+0.21Kg, which I think works out at just about 1.5 pounds). The researchers actually refer to news reports (e.g. CNN) that claim average weight gain of 7-10 pounds over the holiday period, but their results suggest that these claims are some way from the truth.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Also can’t find the research referred to in the blog. The NEJM figures do sound more plausible…

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