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Yo-Yo Dieting May be Healthy for Some People


If you compare yo-yo dieting with staying obese, those who follow the former may actually be healthier and live longer than people who remain obese. At least that’s what researchers at Ohio University found to occur among mice.

Yo-yo dieting still may be harmful

Yo-yo dieting, also referred to as weight cycling, may increase the risk for certain health conditions, according to some studies. Those issues include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and gallbladder disease. Obesity, however, has been linked to a wide range of significant health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and arthritis. People who try various diets and lose and regain weight also may become depressed or discouraged.

At the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Boston, Ohio University researchers presented the findings of their study, noting that yo-yo dieting could be a better alternative to not dieting at all or to remaining obese. This idea is the result of a mouse study that lasted about two years.

In the study, which is the first one of its kind done on yo-yo dieting, scientist Edward List at Ohio University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute, and his colleagues, observed 30 mice that were placed on one of three different dietary programs over more than two years, which is the typical lifespan of lab mice.

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The researchers found that mice who were placed on a yo-yo diet plan—being switched between a high-fat and low-fat diet every four weeks for the span of the study—lived about 25 percent longer and had better blood glucose levels than obese mice that ate a high-fat diet. The group of control mice consumed a low-fat diet, and the yo-yo dieters lived about as long as the controls.

Although the health of the yo-yo dieting mice declined when they were eating a high-fat diet, their weight and blood glucose levels normalized during the low-fat phases. Overall, the yo-yo dieting mice lived 2.04 years compared with 1.5 years for the obese mice and 2.09 years for the control mice.

List acknowledges that replicating this type of research long-term utilizing a controlled diet in humans is difficult, and that mice are used for obesity research because researchers can evaluate the impact of diet over a short time span. Further research using a larger population of mice is planned.

For now, List explained that “the study adds to our understanding of the benefit of losing weight.” The findings also suggest that yo-yo dieting “does not seem detrimental to lifespan.”

Ohio University