Yo-Yo Dieting May be Putting Your Heart at Risk

Being overweight makes a person at higher risk for a number of conditions including heart disease.  The vast array of diet options currently available provides something for everyone to try.  However, not all of the plans out there are realistic and demand drastic lifestyle changes which leads to a cycle of losing and regaining weight.  Often referred to as “weight cycling” or “yo-yo dieting”, these fluctuations can be a stress on the body.

Research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016 suggests that weight cycling may increase the risk of death from heart disease among postmenopausal women.  Study lead author and internal medicine resident Somwail Rasla, M.D. says “Weight cycling is an emerging global health concern associated with attempts of weight loss.”

For the study, over 150,000 post-menopausal women were divided into 4 categories: stable weight, steady gain, maintained weight loss, and weight cycling.  They follow up was continued for almost 11 ½ years.  Their findings were noteworthy and included the following:   

  • Women considered “normal-weight” at the start of the study who lost and regained weight had about three and a half times higher risk for sudden cardiac death than women whose weight remained stable.
  • Weight cycling in the normal-weight women was also associated with a 66 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease deaths
  • No increase in either type of death occurred among overweight or obese women reporting weight cycling.
  • Similarly, no increase in death occurred among women who reported that they gained weight but did not lose it or, in the opposite scenario, that they lost weight without gaining it back.


Heart disease is the most common cause of death, not only in the US, but around the world.  It is widely accepted that being overweight in midlife is associated with an increased risk of dying either from coronary heart disease or from sudden cardiac death.  Also, it has been shown that obesity is a major risk factor.

This study suggests that changing habits in weight cycling can increase these risks even more for some people.  Additional research is needed to determine if this is true of only postmenopausal women, or to the population as a whole, and to determine if this represents a cause-effect relationship, an association or simply a coincidence.  Clinical care recommendations can then be updated as needed.

In the meantime, patients should continue to strive for and maintain a healthy weight.  Making small changes that are manageable and sustainable, then building on that foundation can help you avoid the potential dangers of weight cycling.  Rather than falling for the latest fad diet, talk to your local chiropractor about proper exercise and healthy eating habits that you can make part of your healthy lifestyle.  Your heart will thank you!

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SOURCE: Yo-Yo dieting dangerous even if you’re not overweight.  American Heart Association Meeting Report—Poster: T2041—Session: LF.APS.P226. November 15, 2016.  https://newsroom.heart.org/news/Xyo-yo-dieting-dangerous-even-if-youre-not-overweight