Results of a new study lend support to the
idea that people's eating habits vary according to the
season, with people eating more in the fall and winter.
What's more, their body weight and physical activity levels
also appears to follow suit in many cases.
"In anticipation of the possible weight gain during long
winter months, individuals need to maintain energy balance,"
study author Dr. Yunsheng Ma, of the University of Massachusetts
Medical School in Worcester, stated.
"Energy in -- food intake -- must be equal to energy
out -- mainly physical activity -- to avoid weight gain,"
the researcher explained.
Various researchers have investigated the idea of seasonal
variation in a person's nutrient intake, but the findings
have been inconsistent. Previous research has also investigated
seasonal variations in physical activity levels and body
In the current study, Ma and colleagues examined seasonal
variations in all three areas: food intake, physical activity,
and body weight. The 593 men and women included in their
study, who were primarily recruited from a central Massachusetts
health maintenance organization, were 48 years old, on
average, and mostly overweight and obese.
At the start of the study, the researchers recorded the
study participants' body weight and reported dietary and
exercise levels during the previous 24-hours. Similar
information was recorded on a quarterly basis during a
one-year study period.
Overall, the study participants reported consuming about
1,963 kilocalories per day, with approximately half of
those calories coming from carbohydrates and nearly a
third from fats.
Their calorie intake was the highest during the fall
season, however, during which they reported consuming
86 kilocalories more per day than during the spring, when
their calorie intake was lowest, Ma and colleagues report
in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study
participants also showed seasonal variation in the distribution
of these calories, the report indicates.
Their carbohydrate intake appeared to peak in the spring,
for example, while their intake of total fat and saturated
fat was the highest during the fall.
Further, the study participants' body weight fluctuated
by about one pound throughout the yearlong study period,
but was the highest during the winter season, when they
also reported participating in the least amount of physical
activity, the researchers note. The study participants
reported their highest level of physical activity during
Such seasonal variations in food intake, physical activity,
and body weight, were particularly true among men, middle-aged
study participants, and nonwhites, as well as among those
with a high school education or less, the report indicates.
The reason for the winter variations may be partly due
to the "calorie dense" foods consumed during the holiday
season, Ma notes.
"Many individuals never lose that holiday pound, and
in ten years, this becomes 10 pounds, which can impact
health," Ma said in a university statement.
Noting the inherent difficulty in many people's attempts
to lose weight, Ma stressed both the importance of balancing
the number of calories consumed versus the number of calories
burned and the importance of consuming a balanced diet.
"To avoid the winter weight gain, individuals need to
be conscious of their diet and physical activity in the
winter," Ma stated. "It is important to maintain a healthy
weight throughout the year."
SOURCE: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December