Yo-yo dieting harmful for people with heart disease

April 10, 2017 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Yo-yo dieting harmful for people with heart disease

For overweight people with heart disease, losing and regaining weight may be more dangerous than not losing weight at all. That’s according to a new review of data by researchers at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

The research concluded that patients whose weight fluctuates the most die twice as quickly or have twice the risk of heart attack or stroke compared to people who maintain a stable body weight.

And their risk of developing diabetes grows by 78 percent.

In other words, if you are going to lose weight, do it right so you can maintain a weight loss.

Yo-yo dieting, where a person's weight fluctuates repeatedly, is already known to be unhealthy in people without heart disease. 

The new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, explored whether this was also true for people with coronary artery disease, where fatty deposits have built up in the blood vessels feeding the heart muscle. The researchers recycled data from 9,509 volunteers who were part of a Lipitor (a cholesterol-lowering statin drug) study published in 2005 and sponsored by Pfizer. 

Yo-yo dieters twice as likely to have heart attack, stroke

After adjusting for various factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, race, gender, diabetes, cholesterol levels and treatment with Lipitor, the researchers found that people whose weights fluctuated the most were 2.24 times more likely to die from any cause within about five years, 2.17 times more likely to have a heart attack and 2.36 times more likely to suffer a stroke than people whose weights were the most stable.

For every 3- or 4-pound change in body weight, their risk of heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, death from heart disease or the need for surgery to open a clogged artery rose by 4 percent.

The dangers posed by shifting weight were least pronounced in people who had a normal weight to begin with.

One limitation of the study: It did not examine whether patients lost weight because they tried to, or if their weight fluctuated because they were battling illness.

Set realistic, sustainable weight goals

If you need to lose weight, it is important to put weight loss in perspective. Studies show people set unattainable goals.

Instead of saying I need to lose 40 pounds and, when losing only 10 pounds, being disappointed and eventually gaining it back, set smaller goals.

If you lose 10 pounds and keep it off, you will achieve important achievements to blood sugar control, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.

As a typical example of patients in the study whose weights fluctuated significantly, the researchers cited the case of a 53-year-old man whose weight went from 231 pounds to 244 pounds three months later, then dropped to 211 pounds eighteen months later before going up to 253 pounds after another 18 months had passed.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, online April 5, 2017.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.