Mashed potatoes and gravy, pecan pie and whipped cream, homemade fudge. The list goes on and on. You only have to eat an extra 500 calories to pack on a pound. And that pound might be very hard to lose.
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Despite the commonly held belief that the average American gains five pounds or more over the holiday season, little data supports this assumption. The study found instead that people who are already overweight or obese are more likely to gain at least four to five pounds. But the pound that most people gain during the holiday season accumulates from year to year. This would help explain the weight gain that frequently occurs during adulthood, and the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that often accompanies it.1
A more recent study at the University of Oklahoma assessed the weight gain of college students during the Thanksgiving break and found that most of the 94 co-ed students also gained about one pound. The researchers concluded that, “while an increase in body weight of half a kilogram may not be cause for alarm, the increase could have potential long-term health consequences if participants retained this weight gain throughout the college year.
Additionally, because the overweight/obese participants gained the greatest amount of body weight, this group may be at increased risk for weight gain and further obesity development during the holiday season.2
Managing your weight during the holiday season
The good news is there are proven herbs to help you manage your weight. A new review focusing on the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines in managing obesity looked at 77 studies (19 human and 58 animal studies). Compounds included in the review that were effective for managing obesity contained ginseng, green tea and bitter melon.3
Ginseng has been used for thousands of years to enhance physical, sexual and mental performance, and to increase energy. Recent studies are showing that Panax ginseng supports healthy blood glucose levels, an important factor in weight control. In one study obese mice that were treated for four weeks with Panax ginseng showed a loss of body weight and a decrease in blood glucose levels compared with control mice.4
Green tea is extremely popular in Asia, and since most Asians are not overweight, green tea has been the subject of numerous studies investigating its anti-obesity effects. Studies on humans report reduced body weight and body fat, as well as increased thermogenesis (the burning of fat due to increased metabolism).5
A recent study at the University of Connecticut found that feeding mice green tea extract—in doses equal to what a person would get from drinking at least seven cups of green tea a day—inhibited intestinal lipid absorption, which leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In humans, the incidence of fatty liver disease continues to rise along with the ongoing obesity epidemic.6
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is commonly used in Thai cooking, but it does a lot more than add flavor. One study showed that rats given bitter melon drew fewer calories from their high fat food, had less visceral adipose tissue, lower blood glucose, and significantly reduced insulin resistance than un-supplemented rats.7
It’s always a challenge to maintain healthy weight during the holiday season. But with a little discipline and the aid of natural herbs you can do it!
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Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O'Neil PM, Sebring NG. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. N Engl J Med. 2000 Mar 23;342(12):861-7.
Hull HR, Radley D, Dinger MK, Fields DA. The effect of the Thanksgiving holiday on weight gain. Nutr J. 2006 Nov 21;5:29.
Hasani-Ranjbar S, Nayebi N, Larijani B, Abdollahi M. A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines used in the treatment of obesity. World J Gastroenterol. 2009 Jul 7;15(25):3073-85.
Mollah ML, Kim GS, Moon HK, Chung SK, Cheon YP, Kim JK, Kim KS. Antiobesity effects of wild ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) mediated by PPAR-gamma, GLUT4 and LPL in ob/ob mice. Phytother Res. 2009 Feb;23(2):220-5.
Wolfram S, Wang Y, Thielecke F. Anti-obesity effects of green tea: from bedside to bench. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2006 Feb;50(2):176-87
Bruno RS, Dugan CE, Smyth JA, DiNatale DA, Koo SI. Green tea extract protects leptin-deficient, spontaneously obese mice from hepatic steatosis and injury. J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):323-31.
Chan LL, Chen Q, Go AG, Lam EK, Li ET. Reduced adiposity in bitter melon (Momordica charantia)-fed rats is associated with increased lipid oxidative enzyme activities and uncoupling protein expression. J Nutr. 2005 Nov;135(11):2517-23.