December 2015
It's that time of year again! The air is turning crisp, the days are shorter, and the holidays are advancing upon us. Nothing sounds better than savory roasts, sweet desserts and hot beverages to warm the body and soul. 

The last thing any of us wants to think about is healthy eating and the weight gain that seems inevitable during the holiday season, but... 

Winter is a many-faceted obstacle when it comes healthy eating. The temperatures and lack of sunlight discourage physical activity, richer, more sugary foods seem to lie in wait around every corner, and many experience what they call the "Winter Blues". 

Holiday weight gain makes up the largest percentage of annual weight gain for an individual and typically is not lost before the next time the holidays roll around. It has also been shown that those who are already overweight are at the highest risk for additional weight gain through the holidays. 1

Let's discuss several things to consider during this goodie-filled season that may help prevent the extra pounds:


1. Sugar - Cookies, cakes, pies and all that goodness. Through recent research sugar has quickly been getting a horrifying reputation for its effects on our health, but more specific to this topic, according to Robert Lustig at the Center for Obesity Assessment, "...sugar dampens the suppression of the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger to the brain. It also interferes with the normal transport and signaling of the hormone leptin, which helps to produce the feeling of satiety." So, sugar encourages the hormone that makes you feel hungry and prevents the action of the hormone that helps you feel full.2 Consider using honey when you prepare sweets; honey is sweeter than cane sugar and less is required for same amount of sweetness. Honey is also much gentler on your blood sugar levels which reduces its effects on your satiety hormones3 and it comes with the added benefit of vitamins and minerals.

2. Water - While the sweat-inducing temperatures of summer are gone we still need to be conscious of our water intake through the winter. Not only is water vital for pretty much everything our body does in general, there is evidence that drinking water stimulates the metabolism. Just 2 cups of water was found to the metabolic rate by 30% in both men and women.4  Try drinking a glass of water before your meals!


3. Alcohol - Not only does drinking alcohol add calories itself, but according to one study, the consumption of alcohol before a meal stimulated people to consume 24% more high-fat savory foods.5  Why not unwind with your drink after the meal is finished to prevent overeating?


4.  Exercise  - It's cold, wet, and dark. We'd like nothing more than to just curl up at home and munch on Christmas cookies and drink egg nog. Activity levels in the winter decline dramatically for most people. With all these delicious foods appearing before us though, it is a terrible time to become a couch potato. 


1. Stevenson, J L, et al. "Effects Of Exercise During The Holiday Season On Changes In Body Weight, Body Composition And Blood Pressure." European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 67.9 (2013): 944-949. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. Web
2. Lustig, Robert H., Laura A. Schmidt, and Claire D. Brindis. "The Toxic Truth about Sugar." Nature 482.7383 (2012): 27-9. ProQuest. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
3. Shambaugh P., Worthington V., and Herbert JH. "Differential Effects of Honey, Sucrose, and Fructose on Blood Sugar Levels." Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 13.6 (1990): 322-5. Print.
4. Brown CM, Dulloo AG, Montani JP (September 2006). "Water-induced thermogenesis reconsidered: the effects of osmolality and water temperature on energy expenditure after drinking". The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 91 (9): 3598-602.
5. Ilse C. Schrieks, Annette Stafleu, Sanne Griffioen-Roose, Cees de Graaf, Renger F. Witkamp, Rianne Boerrigter-Rijneveld, Henk F.J. Hendriks. "Moderate alcohol consumption stimulates food intake and food reward of savoury foods". Appetite. Volume 89. 1 June 2015. Web.
6. Pivarnik JM, Reeves MJ, and Rafferty AP. "Seasonal Variation in Adult Leisure-Time Physical Activity." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35.6 (2003): 1004-8. Print.

The Importance of Vitamin D 

Vitamin D mostly has a reputation for its importance in bone health by helping to prevent osteoporosis. However, it performs many other important roles in our bodies as well. The health of our immune systems has been closely linked to this vitamin and researchers have been examining links between vitamin D deficiency and risks for developing certain diseases. Vitamin D is relatively rare in foods and is largely obtained by most people through direct sunlight. The ultraviolet rays trigger the creation of vitamin D when they are absorbed by the skin. Therefore, during the darkest coldest months people are at higher risk for deficiency. Some of the best foods for supplementation of vitamin D are Fatty fishes (i.e. cod, salmon, and sardines), egg yolks, and liver. You could also choose to take a pill supplement or cod liver oil.

Vitamin D is especially important for pregnant women as mother and baby's levels are interconnected. Vitamin D deficient mothers give birth to vitamin D deficient babies. According to the Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics where research has been done on Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy, vitamin D helps prevent infant seizures (due to calcium deficiency) and prevents fetal bone malformation. 1 They also suggest that appropriate levels may help prevent the mother's immune system from rejecting a pregnancy.

It is important to note that, like everything else in life, moderation is key and too much vitamin D can be toxic. The amount of Vitamin D recommended varies between institutions, however the upper limit allowed for adults is about 4000IUs and it is suggested that an infant's intake never be more than 1000IUs. The Mayo Clinic suggests, for the average healthy individual, an intake of 600IU for ages 1-70 and 800IU for ages 71 and older. Some conditions may cause your doctor to prescribe different levels of supplementation.

1.Hyppönen, Elina. "Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy - Importance for the Mother and Child." Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism 59.1 (2011): 28-31. ProQuest. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.


Fun Fact:

From 1659 until 1681, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas 
in Boston and anyone caught violating the rule could be 
fined five shillings.

Bah! Humbug!

Mary C Kirk, MD, PLLC
6465 South Yale, Ste 605
Tulsa, OK  74136