ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Worried about packing on the pounds this holiday season? You’re not alone!

Dr. Dominick DeFelice of Highland Family Medicine discussed the research behind weight gain during the holiday season and the steps we can take to prevent it on Thanksgiving morning during News 8 at Sunrise.

“There have been a few interesting studies about this,” noted Dr. DeFelice. “One study looked at hospital admission rates for something called congestive heart failure, which is a condition where the heart doesn’t pump blood fast enough forward to the rest of the body and it’s very sensitive to fluid level intakes and sodium level intakes. They found that there are two spikes in admission rates for this condition during the year and it’s the few days after Christmas and the few days after July 4th.”

Dr. DeFelice described the findings of two other studies regarding weight changes during the holiday season. “One smaller study in college students found that those students on average will gain about a pound over the Thanksgiving break, and it was more pronounced in graduate students and people who were overweight and obese going into this study. Another larger more fascinating study found that adults over 18 will gain about a pound over the course of the winter months. And they actually weighed those people again the following fall and found that that weight did not fall off. So it suggests that adults are gaining little by little as they go on in their lives and that that gain is taking place during the holiday season.”

Whether a clear cause and effect scenario is present is difficult to conclude definitively. “Most scientific and medical studies do not ever show a direct causal relationship between two phenomena,” Dr. DeFelice said. “It’s just very difficult to prove that what these studies show is a correlation or a coincidence between the holiday season or winter season and that weight gain or those heart failure admission rates. That’s about the best a study can do. So those are some important findings.”

Dr. DeFelice said there are important steps people can take to mitigate the health impact of holiday eating. “The biggest piece of advice I would give is to read nutrition labels. Not enough people – as they’re going about shopping in the store – really take the time to read those facts and figures on those nutrition labels. You want to pay attention to serving size. That’s a big one because a lot of those packaged foods list out the calories and everything per one serving. And if you eat more than that, you’re multiplying those numbers. Things on the nutrition label to get less of – things like sodium, carbohydrates, particularly added sugars, trans fats, and saturated fats. Things to get more of – protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.”

Dr. DeFelice recommended going to the ‘My Plate’ website for more guidance and information.