Could this common diet trend be hurting your heart?

Could this common diet trend be hurting your heart?

Millions of Americans go on a diet to lose weight, but is the constant up and down on the scale causing a potential health problem?

A study released by the American Heart Association revealed that losing and regaining weight (sometimes called yo-yo dieting) may actually increase the risk of death from cardiac disease among older women of normal weight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 36 percent of U.S. adults are considered obese. The World Health Organization reports that worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Dieting is a logical next step, but perhaps these findings signal women should proceed with caution.

For the study, researchers looked at weight histories of over 158,000 post-menopausal women and found “normal weight” women who lost and regained weight had a 3 ½ times higher risk for sudden cardiac death than those whose weight remained stable.

They were also associated with a 66 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease death.

According to Dr. Dory Jarzabkowski, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., “Yo-yo dieting is unsafe, as rapid decreases followed by increases in weight cause significant physiological strain to the heart, causing both increases in electrical instability and increased sheer forces on coronary arteries, a risk for atherosclerotic heart disease.”

“It is safer to lose weight gradually – one to two pounds a week and maintain the weight loss,” says Dr. Jarzabkowski. “This allows the body a chance to acclimate to the change.”

The study showed no increase in sudden cardiac deaths or coronary heart disease deaths among overweight or obese women reporting weight cycling.

“More research is needed before any recommendations can be made for clinical care regarding the risks of weight cycling, since these results apply only to postmenopausal women and not to younger-aged women or men,” said Dr. Somwail Rasla, study lead author, in a release.

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.