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Analysis Christmas 2009: Christmas Fayre

Santa Claus: a public health pariah?

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 17 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5261

Rapid Response:

Santa’s omega-3 rich diet and economy stimulus by outsourcing ‘Elf storage’ to Washington DC

Grills and Halyday give a humorous account of Santa’s ability to
influence people, especially children (1). The authors suggest that one
of the things that Santa promotes is the harmful message that obesity is
synonymous with cheerfulness and joviality.

To be very old and obese, yet cheerful and jovial, it must mean that
Santa must be very healthy. So, children and grownups would have to
investigate Santa’s dietary habits at the North Pole for identifying the
reason for this anomaly.

Firstly, however, it would be advisable to consider Santa’s age. No
one will dispute the fact that he is very, very old, as exemplified by his
snow white hair and beard. Secondly, as a North Polian, Santa consumes a
fatty diet abundant in omega-3 fatty acids (2). Also, it is a well known
fact that one puts on weight with age (3,4). Santa needs the excess
adipose tissue to keep him warm at the North Pole and as he travels in the
cold confines of the atmosphere, on his reindeer-drawn sled.

When many have succumbed to heart disease, cancer and other diseases
we find Santa working tirelessly year after year, giving joy to children
around the world. The ideal omega-3/omega-6 ratio in Santa’s diet is
hypothesized as the reason for his lack of heart disease (2) or prostate
cancer (5). It would be of interest to see if this diet has anything to do
with the observation that that he does not gradually lose muscle mass and
become frail as the years pass.

In addition, he does set an example for healthy living, despite his
obesity. He encourages his young helpers to work very hard, to prepare
presents for delivery to the world wide wonderfulkids, in time for
Christmas. Thus, Santa’s Elves are all slender and live a very active
lifestyle, a model for youngsters everywhere.

Santa is very helpful and resourceful as well. In the off season, he
outsources part of “Elf storage” to Washington DC, USA to help stimulate
the economy (Figure 1). With no recession ever, at the North Pole, Santa
can afford to give one of the biggest stimulus packages ever delivered to
the USA. Therefore, we should be thankful even after Christmas for the
numerous jobs that would be made possible by this thoughtful gesture. The
stimulus package would be more than enough to provide for the food,
clothing, housing, transportation (Polar Express) and other needs of the

Kids of all ages can take comfort in the knowledge that Santa is not
at all bad at heart and all the negative images portrayed are just a sad
example of the precocious greed of mankind who attempt to use his
influence to peddle their wares.

Therefore, kids and grownups can emulate Santa for his healthy eating
style, for enforcing a strict work routine for his helpers, for his
generous heart and his resourcefulness.


1. Grills NJ, Halyday B. Santa Claus: a public health pariah? BMJ

2. Burr ML. Lessons from the story of n-3 fatty acids. Am J Clin
Nutr. 2000;71(1 Suppl):397S-8S.

3. Williams PT. Evidence for the incompatibility of age-neutral
overweight and age-neutral physical activity standards from runners. Am J
Clin Nutr. 1997;65:1391-6.

4. Williams PT, Wood PD. The effects of changing exercise levels on
weight and age-related weight gain. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006; 30:543-51.

5. Dewailly E, Mulvad G, Sloth Pedersen H, Hansen JC, Behrendt N,
Hart Hansen JP. Inuit are protected against prostate cancer.Cancer
Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003; 12:926-7.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 December 2009
Biji T Kurien
Senior Research Scientist
OMRF, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA