The Dangers of Yo-yo Dieting

Did you resolve to lose weight this year, or are you trying to quickly drop a few pounds to fit into that beautiful new dress you received as a gift?


Research recently presented by the American Heart Association shows that there are dangers associated with repeatedly losing and regaining weight, often referred to as yo-yo dieting or weight cycling, particularly for postmenopausal women.

For the study, researchers followed 158,063 postmenopausal women—classified into four categories: stable weight, steady gain, maintained weight loss and weight cycling—for a period of 11.4 years. During that time, they recorded 2,526 coronary heart disease deaths and 83 sudden cardiac deaths. They then categorized the deaths based on the women's starting weights and their weight histories over time.

Surprisingly, among the yo-yo dieters in the weight cycling category, women with normal weights put themselves at much greater risk than their overweight or obese counterparts.

While additional research needs to be done, the initial results merit attention:

  • Normal-weight women who repeatedly lost and regained weight had 3.5 times greater risk for sudden cardiac death than women whose weight remained stable. The same group had a 66 percent greater risk of dying from coronary heart disease.
  • Researchers found no increase in sudden cardiac death or death from coronary heart disease for overweight or obese women classified as yo-yo dieters.

Nonetheless, the study points out that yo-yo dieting can be dangerous. Rather than repeatedly losing and regaining weight, we encourage our patients to focus on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and getting the proper amount of sleep and exercise each day. Slowly losing weight and developing healthy habits will help you lose extra pounds and keep them off.

If you have questions about shedding extra pounds or if you are planning to embark on a new diet in 2017, we encourage you to discuss your plans with your physician to be sure you’re helping and not hurting your health.

When sharing news about the study, the American Heart Association included the following disclaimer: “The study has several limitations. The study was observational, meaning it could only show an association and not a cause-and-effect relationship. In addition, the study relied on self-reports, which could be inaccurate, and included only older women. Since sudden cardiac death occurred relatively infrequently, the cases that did occur could have resulted from chance.”

If you're concerned about your weight or plan to start a diet in 2017, make an appointment with your primary care physicians today. Click here for a Summit Medical Group physician directory, including a list of doctors who are accepting new patients.