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Maybe you have been there. You lose weight and the next thing you know, you have gained it back, plus a little extra. Does this up-and-down process we call yo-yo dieting or weight cycling injure your health?

Sixty-eight percent of Americans over age 20 are obese or overweight. Of those, about 45 million are on a diet. As many as 65 percent of people who lose weight regain it within three years. For those who lose pounds rapidly, only five percent will sustain weight loss.

The controversy continues as to whether this practice harms otherwise healthy adults. Limited studies show the impact for crash dieting may result in frail bones, muscle atrophy, weakened immune system, and heart palpitations. However, weight cycling may be linked to stroke, heart attack, or death in people with preëxisting coronary heart disease (CHD).

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A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms that for those with heart disease, a yo-yo pattern of dieting may prove fatal. The study included nearly 10,000 men and women between ages 35 to 75 and spanned almost five years. All participants had high cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study. For those overweight or obese when the study began, weight fluctuation of up to 8.6 pounds accounted for 136 percent more strokes, 117 percent more heart attacks, and 124 percent more deaths. While results did not prove a cause and effect relationship, an association seemed to exist. The study also found that the onset of diabetes increased for those who demonstrated greater variability in weight.

The August 28, 2017 journal Obesity reported that individuals whose weight fluctuated over a two-year period did not fare as well in keeping weight off as did those who consistently lost weight at a slower pace.

What do these studies tell us? For a better outcome when losing weight, make the process slow and steady. Unlike weight cycling or yo-yo dieting, consistency in losing weight assures a greater possibility of keeping weight off and at the same time, it reduces potential harm to your body, especially if  you have CHD. Before you start another crash diet, consider your long term goal for weight loss and the price such a diet could cost you in compromised health.

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