Yo-Yo Dieting May Be Harmful for Heart Patients

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For people with coronary artery disease, rapidly losing and regaining weight — or “yo-yo” dieting — may increase the risk for deadly heart attacks and strokes, a new study suggests.

Scientists prospectively followed 9,509 men and women with stable coronary artery disease, examining them and recording their weight an average of 12 times over five years. The median body weight variation over the period was 3.8 pounds per visit.

After adjusting for other risk factors, they found that compared to the one-fifth of people with the lowest weight variability, the one-fifth with the highest had a 78 percent higher risk of new onset diabetes, a 117 percent higher risk of heart attack, a 136 percent higher risk of stroke, and a 124 percent higher risk of death. The study, sponsored by Pfizer, is in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“It’s important to lose weight,” said the lead author, Dr. Sripal Bangalore, an associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, “but this data says you have to keep it off. Many times people are motivated until they lose the weight, and then they feel they can take it easy. Maybe this information can be used as motivation to keep the weight off.”