Desperate dieters have long been warned of the dangers of yo-yo dieting, but according to new research the cycle of weight gain and loss causes no significant damage.
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Scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center looked at the effects of moderate or severe weight fluctuations in a year-long study, and found that there was little long-term harm to health and a history of yo-yo dieting was no barrier to future weight loss.
More than 400 overweight and obese female volunteers between the ages of 50 and 75 took part in the study, and were each assigned to one of four diet regimes - a reduced-calorie diet only, exercise only (brisk walking), a reduced-calorie diet plus exercise regime, and a control group that continued without intervention.
After 12 months, those in the diet only and diet plus exercise groups lost an average of 10 per cent of their weight.
About a fifth of the women taking part had a history of yo-yo dieting, having lost and regained more than 20 pounds on three or more occasions. A further 25 per cent had previously lost 10 or more pounds.
But the researchers found there was no significant change in factors such as blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and blood concentrations of hormones such as leptin, which makes us feel full.
Nor were the yo-yo dieters at any disadvantage when it came to weight loss, giving hope to those who have tried and failed in the past.
Lead researcher Dr Anne McTiernan wrote in the journal Metabolism: "To our knowledge, no previous studies have examined the effect of prior weight cycling on the body composition, metabolic andhormonal changes induced by a comprehensive lifestyle intervention in free-living women.
"A history of unsuccessful weight loss should not dissuade an individual from future attempts to shed pounds or diminish the role of a healthy diet and regular physical activity in successful weight management."
Do you have a history of yo-yo dieting? Will the results of this research encourage you to try losing weight again? Leave your comments below...