As the festive season approaches, one wonders how our bodies prepare for the enormity of food that will be ingested in a relatively short space of time. In the UK alone, the average person consumes 7000 calories on Christmas Day alone. This is three times the recommended calorie intake per day, and most of us will have reached the recommended calorie intake before Christmas lunch has even been served. And of course, it’s not just about eating more. We are also a great deal more sedentary, with the average person in the UK spending 5.5 hours a day in front of the television over the Christmas period desperately awaiting reruns of Blackadder and yet another Christmas special!
Of course, this massive increase in consumption over the festive period inevitably means we put on weight, with research showing maximum weight gain reached within 10 days of Christmas Day, peaking around 3 January, and then falling. However, despite this relatively rapid increase in weight in the space of a few days, approximately half of the weight gained seems to remain until the summer months or beyond. The cumulative effects of this annual increase in weight during the holiday period likely contribute to one’s overall lifetime weight gain.
Obesity results from a mismatch between food intake and energy expenditure. So is this festive weight gain a result of eating too much and spending too much time on the sofa? What if it was more than just that? We now know that the gut is a crucial organ in the maintenance of energy homeostasis. It releases a whole host of hormones such as glucagon-like peptide-1 and peptide YY that regulate appetite in response to nutrient intake. Much of my work has focused on looking at the effect of dietary protein on appetite. High protein diets reduce food intake and improve body composition, and if people can stick to them, they lose weight. (more…)