Yo-yo dieting tied to heart attack, stroke in healthy people

October 15, 2018 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Yo-yo dieting tied to heart attack, stroke in healthy people

People with fluctuations in their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar may be more likely to have heart attacks and strokes than those with stable measurements, a new study from Korea suggests. 

Obesity and consistently elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose have long been linked to an increased risk of having, and dying from, heart attacks and strokes. But less is known about what happens when people have fluctuations in these metabolic risk factors over time, especially if they haven’t been diagnosed with conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

About the study 

For the study, the research team examined data collected by the Korean National Health Insurance System from 2005 to 2012 on more than 6.7 million people without a history of heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. All of these people had at least three health exams during the study period, and researchers followed half of them for more than 5.5 years. 

During follow-up, there were almost 55,000 deaths, more than 22,000 strokes and more than 21,000 heart attacks. 

Compared to people with little variation in their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, individuals with the most fluctuation in these measurements were about 2.3 times more likely to die during the study period and more than 40 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. 

Avoid yo-yo dieting

These new findings suggest it’s prudent to avoid repeated weight loss and weight regain for optimal cardiovascular health.

People who are overweight or obese should not, however, be deterred from trying to lose excess pounds by concerns that weight fluctuations might harm their health. Instead, they should set achievable weight loss goals that would enable them to maintain a lower weight over time and avoid yo-yo dieting. 

Experts say weight gain puts a stress on the body which can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.  

In the study, researchers looked at variability in metabolic risk factors of more than 5 percent. They examined improvements like weight loss and worsening measurements like weight gain separately. 

Large fluctuations in metabolic risk factors - whether improvements or setbacks - were associated with a higher risk of death during the study. 


The study wasn’t a randomized controlled experiment designed to prove whether ups and downs` in metabolic risk factors directly cause heart attacks, strokes or early death. Another limitation is the possibility that results in Korean patients might not reflect what would happen elsewhere or with people from other racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

Source:  Circulation, online October 1, 2018. 

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