C3S2 The Clarkson Center for Complex Systems Science

Diana Thomas, Professor of Mathematical Sciences, United States Military Academy at West Point

Will present a talk entitled:

“Overflowing Tables: Social Construct of Thanksgiving Energy Intake throughout American History”


In the United States, recent studies have demonstrated weight gain over Thanksgiving contributing to a significant portion of annual national weight gain. Understanding the social context of how Thanksgiving celebrations were perceived is critical for preventing and reducing excess weight during this time.

Methods: Historical information from newspapers, books, journal articles, White House menus, and recipes were combined with body weight and energy intake estimates since 1620. Energy intake from present-day data was back-calculated  using energy balance differential equations and body weight data collected in participants before and after Thanksgiving. Similar calculations were performed in studies that also included Christmas. A Latent Dirichlet Allocation analysis of topics scraped from Twitter under the hashtag #thanksgiving (90,000 tweets) was performed. The top topics and search queries from Google Trends on Thanksgiving 2020 were also identified.

Results: Since 1624, the social context of Thanksgiving has evolved from a focus on prayer and celebrated gratitude to a focus on food, football, and retail. What is served on Thanksgiving and its energy content of has not substantially changed since the late 18th century. On the other hand, body weights and mean energy intake have steadily increased over time with the most rapid increases occurring since 1941.

Conclusions: The shift in the social context of Thanksgiving and other factors of an existing obesogenic environment have likely combined to generate increased energy intake and weight gain during Thanksgiving.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 982 8040 4151
Passcode: 219449
One tap mobile
+16468769923,,98280404151# US (New York)
+13126266799,,98280404151# US (Chicago)

Friday, April 30th 2021

2:10 pm


C3S2 Clarkson Center for Complex Systems Science l  http://webspace.clarkson.edu/~ebollt/Website-C3S2/index.html

CLARKSON UNIVERSITY  l  Potsdam, New York 13699-5720

You Might Also Like