The Long-Term Dangers of Yo-Yo Dieting
"Yo-yo dieting" is the name given to diet options that lead to drastic weight loss, but which cause a lot of the weight to be regained once the diet stops. It's estimated1 that 7% of men and 10% of women in the U.S. resort to restrictive diets in their endless struggle to lose weight. Though they do lose weight initially, they end up regaining it. This is the "yo-yo effect" which, according to a new study2, can be a lot more harmful for your metabolism than you'd expect.
Researchers from the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island presented their findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016. The study analyzed over 158,000 women over the course of 11 years. The women were all classified as one of the following: stable weight, steady gain, maintained weight loss, and weight cycling (yo-yo group).
The findings were terrifying. First, the research indicated that the weight cycling women of normal weight were 3.5 times more likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest than the others. Obese women who experienced weight cycling didn't present this higher risk of death, however, nor did any of the women from the other categories.
Think about that: women of normal weight who lost and gained weight had a higher risk of fatal sudden cardiac arrest than obese and overweight women. The risk of death from both sudden cardiac death and coronary heart disease increase not only as a result of weight gain, but specifically due to weight cycling—the yo-yo effect.
Granted, the research done was simply observational, showing the association between heart disease and weight cycling without looking for the causal relationship. The study didn't look at how or why weight cycling can lead to serious health problems—it simply found that they do, and that's reason enough to be cautious.
Many people, men and women alike, struggle with weight loss. The modern diet and lifestyle make weight loss significantly challenging—downright close to impossible for many. But diets that cause you to lose weight quickly aren't the solution. Not only do you risk metabolic problems, but now it turns out the weight cycling (sudden weight loss followed by weight re-gain) can put your heart at risk.
To be safer, try the American Heart Association's weight loss recommendations: be more active, stop smoking, limit your sugar consumption, eat a balanced diet, control calorie intake, manage your blood sugar and cholesterol, and keep to a healthy weight and body fat. Slow and steady weight loss is always the most effective, longest-lasting, and healthiest.
- Strohacker, Kelley, KATIE C. CARPENTER, and BRIAN K. MCFARLIN. "Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk?" International Journal of Exercise Science. Berkeley Electronic Press, July 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
- Zayed, Dr. Ahmed. "Yo-Yo Dieting Dangerous Even If You’re Not Obese." RSS. N.p., 15 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.