Yo-yo dieting does not put men at risk of death

December 17, 2002 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Yo-yo dieting does not put men at risk of death

Men who lose weight only to gain it all back might become frustrated over time but they are not at increased risk of dying, a new study reports.

These findings contradict those of other studies suggesting that weight fluctuation, also known as "yo-yo dieting," or weight cycling, can increase the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes. These findings raised concern that weight loss attempts among older adults may cause harm.

The new findings suggest that the increased mortality risk associated with weight loss and weight cycling is determined to a large extent by disadvantageous lifestyle factors and pre-existing ill health. There is no firm evidence that weight cycling per se is harmful.

The results are based on information from more than 5,600 middle-aged men attending a general practice in one of 24 British towns. Researchers recorded their weight changes over 12 to 14 years, and death rates over the following 8 years.

Healthy men whose weight cycled over the study period were no more likely to die during the study than their peers with more stable weights.

Men with a preexisting disease, such as cancer or heart problems, were 50% more likely to die when their weight fluctuated, compared with men with more stable weights. But when the researchers accounted for preexisting disease, there was no relationship between weight fluctuation and death. The results underscore the importance of weight loss for men who are overweight and obese.

In other findings, men who gained up to 15% of their body weight during the following 12 to 14 years also had no increased risk of death. Long-term smokers who lost weight over the years were more likely to die from all causes, but these men tended to be sick to begin with. Men who had quit smoking since the initial exam and whose weight fluctuated were more likely to die, mostly due to heart disease, the investigators found.

Indeed, more than half of these men had been diagnosed with heart disease or cancer, or were in otherwise poor health.

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