While it might seem easier to diet for only part of the year, you may want to stop reserving those healthy habits just for bikini season. New research by the American Heart Association shows that yo-yo dieting—repeatedly losing and regaining weight—can increase the risk of dying from heart disease among postmenopausal women.
The research team, led by Dr. Somwail Rasla of the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, found that women who lost and regained weight had about a three and a half times higher risk of sudden cardiac death than women who remained a stable weight. Weight cycling was also associated with a 66% higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease.
In contrast, there was no increase in the risk of heart disease among women who reported that they gained weight but did not lose it, or that they lost weight without gaining it back.
While previous studies have researched correlations between obesity and heart risks, this study focused mostly on women with normal weights. The researchers studied 158,063 postmenopausal women who were considered normal weight at the start of the study and followed their dieting habits for more than 11 years.
The researchers noted that there were several limitations to their study. The research relied on the participants to accurately self-report, and the study could only determine an association between weight cycling and heart problems, rather than a direct correlation.
More research is needed before doctors can give any recommendations regarding the risks of yo-yo dieting. Also, the effect on younger-aged women or men is still undetermined. The results can only be applied to postmenopausal women.
Photo: Alan Cleaver, CC-BY
Jane Snyder is a freelance writer and photojournalist based out of Athens, Georgia.