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Heart health warning over Christmas blowout

Too much fat, salt, sugar and booze is on the menu for festive Brits
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
turkey food poisoning

23rd December 2012 - Eating Christmas lunch and snacking throughout the day could put a huge strain on our hearts, experts are warning.

Brits could consume as much salt as 50 packets of crisps and more saturated fat than half a pack of lard on Christmas Day alone, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

'Eye watering' consumption

It commissioned YouGov to carry out a survey of 2,179 adults to find out what we eat and drink over the festive period and then calculated what that meant in terms of calories, fats, sugars and salt for the average person. The result, say experts, make " eye-watering reading":

  • The 1,200 calorie breakfast: More than one in ten people (12%) usually eat a full English cooked breakfast, with 14% opting for a bacon sandwich on Christmas morning. A typical fried breakfast contains over 1,200 calories, which is around 60% of our daily calorie intake, while a bacon sandwich with a splash of brown sauce can contain almost half (2.68g) of our recommended daily salt allowance.
  • 32 teaspoons of sugar in one day: Between meals, 40% of people surveyed snack on nuts and almost a third (30%) eat crisps. One in three (33%) will have at least one mince pie and over half of people (56%) choose chocolates. All this snacking, plus overindulging at meal times, means that by the end of the day Brits may have consumed the equivalent of 32 teaspoons of sugar.
  • More saturated fat than in half a pack of lard: Almost three in four people surveyed (73%) opt for turkey as part of their traditional Christmas dinner. While that’s a leaner meat option than goose or duck, the typical Christmas dinner still adds up to 660 calories. Over half of people (52%) surveyed will have Christmas pudding with almost one in four (23%) having cream. Once the breakfast, lunch and dinner is done, Brits could have consumed more saturated fat than you would find in half a packet of lard.

Alcohol indulgence

The BHF says Christmas often brings an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. More than half (54%) of those who celebrate Christmas think they will exceed the recommended daily consumption of alcohol on Christmas Day, with a quarter (25%) drinking more than double the recommended units per day.

One in ten (10%) of us will drink 13 or more units of alcohol, which is the equivalent of 13 shots of whisky in a single day.

Tracy Parker, a heart health dietician at the BHF, says it is not about trying to dampen our spirits, but make us think about our diet and lifestyle beyond Christmas itself. "Yes, that one day is perhaps not going to have much of an impact," she tells us, "but if those unhealthy habits continue into the New Year - that's when your risk of heart disease, higher cholesterol and high blood pressure is likely to have more of an effect."

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