Past studies have associated yo-yo dieting with increased risk of poor heart health. For individuals with pre-existing heart disease, however, new research finds that the health consequences of repeatedly losing and gaining weight may be even more severe.
Researchers of the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU Medical Center in New York, and colleagues recently reported their results in the New England Journal of Medicine . They found that people with coronary heart disease who had experienced large fluctuations in weight over an average of 4.7 years were at much higher risk of heart attack , stroke , and death than people who experienced little change in body weight .
Participants in the study ages 35 to 75 had some form of coronary heart disease (CHD) – the most common form of heart disease among men and women in the United States. Each year, the condition kills more than 370,000 people in the country. CHD is characterized by atherosclerosis – the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which are those that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood. This plaque buildup may block the blood supply to the heart, which can lead to angina (severe chest pain) or heart attack. As well as CHD, all subjects had high cholesterol levels and a history of other heart problems. Around half of the participants were undergoing intensive cholesterol-lowering therapy.
Over a study period of almost 5 years the team found that for individuals who were overweight or obese at the onset of the study – those who experienced the greatest fluctuations in weight (both up and down), experienced 117 percent more heart attacks, 124 percent more deaths, and 136 percent more strokes compared with those who experienced the smallest body weight changes. The largest weight fluctuations linked to 124 percent more deaths.
These findings suggest that we all need to be concerned about weight fluctuation in this group that is already at high risk due to coronary disease. Even though this analysis was not designed to find out the causes of increased risk with body weight fluctuations, we now know more than ever how important it is to keep weight off, rather than having it go up and down.
Study published in New England Journal of Medicine April 2017