Holiday Weight Gain, Alcohol and Sleep, Mangosteen

Q: How much weight do most people gain during the holiday season?
Q: Does alcohol affect sleep?
Q: Is it true that mangosteen helps lower cancer risk?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How much weight do most people gain during the holiday season?
A: The holidays can spell trouble for anyone trying to lose or maintain weight. While many people begin the New Year feeling 5 to 10 pounds heavier, such large gains are not the norm. A study of nearly 200 adults published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported an average weight gain of about one pound per person from mid-November to early or mid-January. Another study, published by the University of Oklahoma, found that, on average, college students gained one pound within the two weeks preceding and following Thanksgiving break. But it is important to note that these averages obscure individual differences among study participants. In the former study, those who were less active than usual gained more over the holiday season, while those who reported increased activity levels stayed about the same weight or even lost a pound or so. In both studies, people who were already overweight gained more than participants who began the study at a healthy weight. Also, although fewer than 10 percent of the adults studied gained more than five pounds over the holiday season, overweight and obese subjects were much more likely to be in this high-weight-gain group. While gaining one or two pounds doesn’t seem like much, many people retain the excess weight from year to year, contributing to the gradual increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood. To help combat holiday heft, be sure to keep physically active. Also, don’t let an extra treat or two derail your efforts. The “I’ve blown it” outlook usually leads people to really overdo it, which could end up affecting your weight.

Q: Does alcohol affect sleep?
A: Yes. Alcohol consumption can lead to lower quality, less restorative sleep. Although alcoholic beverages act as a temporary sedative and may help you to fall asleep initially, overall sleep patterns are disrupted. Alcohol induces a lighter stage of sleep from which we are more easily awakened. It also lessens the amount of time spent in REM sleep, the state in which dreams occur; this sleep state is considered important for learning and overall mental health. Also, while alcohol can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, its effectiveness gradually wears off in people who drink alcohol frequently.

Q: Is it true that mangosteen helps lower cancer risk?
A: Mangosteen is a tropical fruit about the size of a tangerine with a sweet-tart flavor; it is not related to mango fruit. It is processed as a juice and also sold in capsule form as a dietary supplement. Although mangosteen is advertised as a vital source of antioxidants that help prevent cancer and a variety of other health conditions, no reliable studies have established its effect on lowering cancer risk. Xanthones, a phytochemical found in the fruit, have received attention for their possible antioxidant activity, but much more research is needed to prove efficacy and to verify their availability from these products. Moreover, the long list of reported benefits of mangosteen is based on anecdotal evidence, not well-controlled research. So far no dangerous side effects have been tied to mangosteen fruit or products. However, it is cheaper – and probably more effective – to get a broad range of antioxidants and other protective phytochemicals from an array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Studies now suggest that the interaction of a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients from food may provide more protection than any single source.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research

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