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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December 2004, 01:49 GMT
Festive excess stores up trouble
Christmas lunch
Too much of a good thing can be bad
Christmas may be a time of excess, but festive gluttony is far from risk free, say experts.

By eating roughly three to four times more food than we actually need over the festive season, we are storing up problems for the future, according to Dr David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum.

"The extra calories have to go somewhere. It will be laid down as fat, and it's those extra few pounds that will do harm in the long term.

"It's not just your waist size going up that is the problem. It's what is going on inside your body.

I'm certain there are individual cases where it leads to a heart attack.
Dr David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum
"Your blood pressure goes up, and so does your blood sugar.

"It might tip some people with borderline glucose intolerance into full blown diabetes. It's a serious business."

Beware of binging

For a rare few, that extra mince pie smothered in brandy butter could tip the balance and land them in hospital, he said.

CHRISTMAS DINNER: Total = 956 calories, 48g fat
Roast turkey (90g) = 149 calories, 4g fat
Roast potatoes (85g) = 127 calories, 4g fat
Stuffing (100g) = 231 calories, 15g fat
Bread sauce (45g) = 42 calories, 1g fat
Roast parsnips (90g) = 102 calories, 6g fat
Boiled carrots = 14 calories, 0g fat
Boiled brussels = 32 calories, 1g fat
Gravy (50g) = 17 calories, 1g fat
Cranberry sauce (30g) = 45 calories, 0g fat
Pork sausage (20g) = 62 calories, 5g fat
Bacon (40g) = 135 calories, 11g fat
1 slice of Christmas cake (70g) = 249 calories, 8g fat
1 portion of chocolate log (30g) = 101 calories, 3g fat
1 portion of cheese and biscuits = 394 calories, 27g fat
1 portion of mixed nuts (40g) = 243 calories, 22g fat
1 portion Christmas pudding (100g), custard and brandy butter = 587 calories, 22g fat
1 mince pie and double cream = 368 calories, 25g fat
1 glass of mulled wine = 245 calories, 0g fat
Source: British Nutrition Foundation

"If you fill your belly and your cardiac output goes up to digest all this food, then after you have an attack of guilt and try to do some exercise, I'm certain there are individual cases where it leads to a heart attack."

Dr Haslam said a Christmas binge might also trigger other serious conditions, including a bout of pain from gallstones or potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

"Then there's things like food poisoning and alcohol-related accidents too," he said.

One 30-year-old man, Richard Pelley, set himself a challenge of eating nothing but Christmas fare for 12 consecutive days for the Men's magazine Nuts.

As well as putting on 8kg (about a stone) and increasing his waist size by 4cm, he had worrying changes in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

His doctors were so concerned that they put him on cholesterol-lowering medication.

A similar stunt was carried out by Morgan Spurlock, director of the film Super Size Me, who ate nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days.

He said he put on 25lbs and was urged by medical experts to call an end to his 'diet' because of the strain it was putting on his body.

Dr Frankie Phillips from the British Dietetic Association said many of the foods eaten at Christmas were healthy and a good source of essential nutrients.

Damage limitation

She advised people to fill up on the healthier options rather than over-indulge on foods high in fat and sugar.

Amanda Vezey, care adviser at Diabetes UK said: "Although having the odd meal containing more fat and sugar is fine, if continued it will cause high blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.

It would be worth considering going for a good long walk first - as this at least can undo some of the damage the over-indulgence is about to cause.
Professor Peter Weissberg of the BHF

"Being overweight also increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, so everybody should consider taking part in some form of physical activity over the festive period to avoid piling on the pounds."

Research by the British Heart Foundation and the University of Glasgow suggests a long walk before a fat-laden Christmas dinner could help.

They found walking for 90 minutes boosts the function of the blood vessels and lowers blood fat levels.

The benefits lasted well into the next day, regardless of whether the person was lean or fat and even after the walker had eaten a high-fat meal.

Professor Peter Weissberg of the BHF said: "If you are going to over-eat at Christmas, it would be worth considering going for a good long walk first - as this at least can undo some of the damage the over-indulgence is about to cause."

How to avoid being a glutton
24 Dec 03 |  Health

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