Yo-yo Dieting is Bad for Blood Sugar, Heart

Many of us struggle to lose weight. And when we do lose the pounds, we tend to regain it. Then it’s a case of lather, rinse and repeat. We restart the diet, we start to jog again and we beat ourselves up over the regain.

This practice is called yo-yo dieting, and according to research, it’s dangerous for women’s hearts. Following this lose/gain cycle can damage a person even if they are gaining and losing as little as ten pounds repeatedly. A study of 485 women asked how many times they had lost and gained at least 10 pounds within a year. They found that 73 percent of the women reported yo-yoing, some reported yo-yoing 20 times.

Researchers used the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 — body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, smoking, physical activity and diet — to examine their health. The women who had had a weight gain/lose cycle at least once were 82 percent less likely to have a healthy BMI, and 51 percent less likely to be rated as having moderate health or better. Unfortunately, the more yo-yoing women reported, the worse their wellbeing.

This study didn’t look at the long-term effect, and the researchers say more work is needed. Brooke Aggarwal, Ed.D., M.S., assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia Univ., was the lead researcher on the study. She spoke to Runner’s World about the research. “We think it’s possible that every time the weight is regained, cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose nudge higher — above the baseline level. Also, weight that is lost is usually a mix of fat and some lean muscle tissue, whereas weight that is regained is all fat. This fat may be preferentially deposited in the abdomen, and abdominal fat has been strongly associated with risk for cardiovascular disease.

Aggarwal admits that the study does not prove a cause and effect relationship. She suggested that instead of dieting, people should make lifestyle changes that will show weight loss over time.  "[Make] small changes that are sustainable. Small changes don't cause a rebound effect."

That is good advice. Especially for people who have blood sugar concerns in addition to heart health worries. The Simple 7 are contributing factors of heart disease. But, that's not the only harm they cause. Fluctuating weight upsets blood sugar levels and has serious effects on your overall health. Instead of swapping to keto, try lowering your carbohydrate intake. Instead of deciding you’re going to run three miles a day, train for a few months to participate in a 5K run. The goals that impact you in smaller ways are far more likely to stick. A crash diet can be just that — a diet that will end poorly.  

June 21, 2019
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