Print Edition - 2017-04-20  |  Health and Living

Is yo-yo dieting bad for you?

  • health dilemma by dr luisa dillner

Apr 20, 2017-

Trying to lose weight is like giving up smoking: you try, you fail, you try again. But yo-yo dieting has been thought to cause problems. Weight cycling—defined as losing and regaining at least 5lb-10lb per cycle— has been linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. Some research suggests that it can actually increase the proportion of fat, especially around the waist. It has also been accused of slowing the metabolism, making it harder to lose weight in the future. Surveys estimate that 25 percent of men and 27 percent of women are always trying to lose weight.

Much of the evidence for the risks of yo-yo dieting comes from rodent research. Studies on “obese-prone” rats found that the reintroduction of more food after a dieting period led to rats rapidly accumulating fat. But not all rat research shows changes in body composition. In humans, the evidence is also mixed, with some studies showing that weight cycling leads to women accumulating fat around their waist in a male-like pattern of obesity. But a study of 439 postmenopausal women, of whom a quarter were moderate weight cyclers and 18 severe ones, published in the journal Metabolism in 2012 found that yo-yo dieters were not at a disadvantage when they tried to lose weight again. The women were randomly put into one of three groups: dieting only, exercise only, and exercise and dieting. Weight cyclers were as successful as non-cyclers in losing weight—on average they lost about 10 percent of their starting weight within a year. There were no differences in the percentage of body fat or lean muscle mass between the groups. Meanwhile, a review of 20 human studies and seven animal studies found no evidence that weight cycling causes high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer.

Published: 20-04-2017 09:22

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