Weight cycling is associated with a higher risk of death, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Weight cycling, or the constant losing and gaining of weight (usually from diet), leads to adverse health outcomes. By some estimates, 80 percent of people who lose weight will gradually regain it to end up at the same weight or even heavier than they were before they went on a diet. The Endocrine Society's Scientific Statement on the causes of obesity found this was because once an individual loses weight, the body typically reduces the amount of energy expended at rest, during exercise and daily activities while increasing hunger. This combination of lower energy expenditure and hunger creates a "perfect metabolic storm" of conditions for weight gain.
"This study shows that weight cycling can heighten a person's risk of death," said lead study author Hak C. Jang, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Seoul National University (SNU) College of Medicine and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital in Seongnam, Korea. "However, we also concluded that weight loss as a result of weight cycling can ultimately reduce the risk of developing diabetes in people with obesity."
In the 16-year prospective cohort study, researchers examined 3,678 men and women from the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study and found weight cycling was associated with a higher risk of death. Interestingly, people with obesity who experienced more weight cycling were less likely to develop diabetes than other study participants. The health benefits of weight loss overshadowed the adverse effects of weight cycling for individuals with obesity looking to lower their diabetes risk.