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Health Update: Yo-Yo Dieting Can Take a Toll on Your Health

Health Update: Yo-Yo Dieting Can Take a Toll on Your Health

A large proportion of people make a great effort to maintain their ideal weight, but repeatedly losing and regaining pounds, also referred to as yo-yo dieting, are probably doing their bodies more harm than good. Yo-yo dieting, also termed weight cycling, has been thought to lead to long-term struggles with weight and a higher risk of obesity.

Numerous studies have attempted to validate these concerns. Researchers recently evaluated 31 studies on weight cycling and its connection to obesity and diabetes. Findings revealed the following:

  • A total of 19 studies examined the effects of weight cycling on metabolic risk factors for obesity. Of these, more than half, 58%, found an association between weight cycling and increased weight and body fat, particularly belly fat, subsequently increasing the threat of obesity.
  • Eight studies examined the impact of weight cycling on weight gain and obesity risk. Three studies reported that weight cycling appears to increase the probability of future weight gain.
  • Of the studies that examined the risk of type 2 diabetes, the majority, 76%, determined that weight cycling did not increase blood sugar levels or increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

Consequently, the researchers concluded that there's inadequate evidence to support a connection between yo-yo dieting and increased risk of obesity.

However, a new study found that women who lost at least 10 pounds, but subsequently gained that weight back within a year, were more likely to possess risk factors for heart disease. Findings indicated that the more times a person utilized a yo-yo diet, correlated with poorer heart health. Yo-yo dieting also wasn't useful in assisting women to maintain their weight in a healthy range. The study found that yo-yo dieters were 82 % less likely to be at an ideal weight.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City noted that weight cycling is extremely commonplace with the span being zero to 20 cycles and a that history of one or more episodes of weight cycling was associated with a poorer health score.

The study encompassed almost 500 women in the New York City area. Their average age was 37, with almost two-thirds of the participants from racial or ethnic minorities. The average body mass index (BMI) of women in the study was 26, indicating they were slightly overweight. BMI is an approximation of a person's body fat based on height and weight measurements. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Overweight is between 25 and 29.9, and over 30 is considered to be in the obese range. Almost three-quarters of these women reported yo-yo dieting at least once.

The researchers examined the women's heart health utilizing the American Heart Association's "Life Simple 7" recommendations. These consist of seven factors that are considered to be a measure of how successfully people control their heart disease risk factors. The seven measures incorporate eating healthy, exercising regularly, losing weight, smoking cessation, and managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The study found Women who had ever yo-yo dieted were 51% less likely to have a modest total score. They were additionally 65 % less likely to have a score that ranked as optimal. Additionally, the more often a woman had dieted and rapidly regained the weight, the worse her score was. Women who had never been pregnant seemed to be more impacted by the effects of yo-yo dieting, and these women were most likely younger, demonstrating the link between early onset of yo-yo dieting and increased cardiovascular risks. Although this study didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship, researchers observed that when you lose weight, you are inclined to lose lean muscle, and when you regain it, it's frequently fat, more often fat that settles in the abdomen, which is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

Samantha Heller a nutritionist with NYU Langone Health in New York City explains that our bodies don't comprehend why we do or do not have food they just know when they have received enough nutrients to survive. If a person has been on a restrictive diet, and then resumes eating again, the body may start conserving what it can because it doesn't know when food will resume again. The body is just attempting to keep you alive, and over time, it becomes more efficient at performing this. Heller said your body will impel you to get food if it thinks you need it. That's the body pushing you to eat and keep it alive. She suggests trying to adopt a dietary pattern that you can follow long-term, advising a mostly plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet. Scientists agree that making small changes that don't cause a rebound effect and are sustainable, are more efficacious and beneficial for maintaining your health.