Weight Cycling Increases the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke


People who lost weight and gained it back repeatedly — a phenomenon commonly called weight cycling that is often associated with yo-yo dieting — were significantly more likely to experience negative cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, regardless of other cardiac risk factors and average overall weight, according to a study published March 21 in JAMA Network Open.

“Our findings indicate that on a population level, individuals with greater variability in BMI [body mass index] are at higher risk for adverse cardiovascular events as compared to others with less BMI variability,” says a coauthor of the study, Zakaria Almuwaqqat, MD, MPH, a hospital medicine doctor and postdoctoral fellow in cardiovascular disease at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

As Many as Half of Americans Are Weight Cycling

In 2020, about half of Americans reported trying to lose weight.

 But experts think that as many as 80 to 95 percent of people who diet and lose weight gain it back.

These factors result in a high prevalence of weight cycling — anywhere from 20 to 55 percent of the population deals with it, according to estimates.

For people taking a GLP-1 drug for weight loss, such as Wegovy or Zepbound, it appears that they can stop the pounds from coming back as long as they continue on the medication. But if people discontinue the drug, the weight returns.

The Higher the Amount of Weight Lost and Gained, the Greater the Heart Risk

The study used data from two large cohorts, the Million Veteran Program of more than 92,000 U.S. veterans, and 65,000 people from the UK Biobank.

The veteran group had an average age of 57, and 88 percent were men. Ten percent were Hispanic, 24 percent were Black, and 65 percent were white. The average BMI was 30, and BMI measurements were taken multiple times over an average of 10 years. At least three measurements were needed for an individual to be included in the study.

The UK group also had an average age of 57, and 41.5 percent were men. All the subjects were white, and the average BMI was 27 — significantly less than the veteran group average.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button