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Losing at least 5% of one’s initial body weight is associated with improvements in glycaemic control, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and other positive outcomes. Due to these reasons, it is typically recommended that individuals classified as overweight or obese should engage in effective weight loss interventions.
However, despite the potential for clinically significant weight loss through these interventions, weight regain is a common occurrence. This can be attributed to a combination of low adherence to weight control strategies and compensatory physiological mechanisms that influence weight regain.
Consequently, this may result in a cycle of losing and regaining weight over the long term, which is commonly referred to as “weight cycling.”
There are concerns regarding the potential harm to health and increased risk of chronic diseases associated with weight cycling. Some mechanisms have been proposed, such as the loss of lean mass during weight loss periods that is not regained when weight is regained. However, the evidence supporting the harmful effects of weight cycling on health is incomplete and many unanswered questions remain.
In this episode, we will examine the evidence published to date and draw evidence-based conclusions regarding the impact of weight cycling on long-term health.
Co-hosts for this Episode
Dr. Alan Flanagan has a PhD in nutrition from the University of Surrey, where his doctoral research focused on circadian rhythms, feeding, and chrononutrition.
This work was based on human intervention trials. He also has a Masters in Nutritional Medicine from the same institution.
Dr. Flanagan is a regular co-host of Sigma Nutrition Radio. He also produces written content for Sigma Nutrition, as part of his role as Research Communication Officer.
Danny Lennon has a master’s degree (MSc.) in Nutritional Sciences from University College Cork, and he is the founder of Sigma Nutrition.
Danny is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Sports Nutrition Association, the global regulatory body responsible for the standardisation of best practice in the sports nutrition profession.
- What is “weight cycling”?
- What are the proposed harms to health?
- Challenges with assessing this evidence base
- Weight variability and health outcomes in epidemiology
- Weight variability in the Iowa Women’s Health Study
- Intentional vs. unintentional weight loss
- RCTs assessing long-term weight loss
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- Further reading:
- French et al., 1997 – Weight variability and incident disease in older women: the Iowa Women’s Health Study
- Lissner et al., 1991 – Variability of Body Weight and Health Outcomes in the Framingham Population
- Sørensen et al., 2005 – Intention to Lose Weight, Weight Changes, and 18-y Mortality in Overweight Individuals without Co-Morbidities
- Singh et al., 2019 – Intensity and duration of lifestyle interventions for long-term weight loss and association with mortality: a meta-analysis of randomised trials
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