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Penalties of shifting weight

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 23 December 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1653
  1. J S Garrow
  1. Editor European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Rickmansworth WD3 2DQ

    A small, transient gain over Christmas is no threat to health

    The general view seems to be that most adults maintain a more or less steady weight. This belief is based on epidemiological data from large population groups. In reality people fluctuate in their weight, but the average of the group is constant because the gainers and losers tend to cancel out. For example, in a study in Finland the average weight gain over five years among 6504 men was 600 g, and among 6165 women (excluding those who were pregnant during the study) it was even less—only 60 g.1 However, a sixth of the men and slightly fewer of the women had gained more than 5 kg between examinations, while a tenth of the men and an eighth of the women had had similar losses of weight. Rapid gains and losses were not confined to the obese; they occurred in thin people, too.

    Many studies in Britain2 and the United States3 have shown that, compared with those of stable weight, people with a very variable weight have a …

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