In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers explored the effects of weight regain on various health outcomes.
Obesity, the excessive accumulation of fat, is a major worldwide health concern. Obesity is often associated with other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Losing weight through diet and exercise is helpful in attenuating the effects of these diseases, but when individuals cycle between weight loss and weight regain, more harm can be done.
In obese individuals, weight cycling has been shown to be linked to coronary artery disease, but there is little information on the effects in individuals with a healthy weight. In a Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism study, researchers explored the relationship between weight loss followed by weight regain and diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the risk of death.
For this study, researchers used data from a cohort within the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study, which tracked noncommunicable diseases. Participant data was excluded if they had cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or thyroid disease. Furthermore, when investigating the effects of weight cycling on diabetes or cardiovascular disease, data on participants with diabetes and cardiovascular disease were excluded, respectively.
Large weight fluctuations are linked with morbidity and mortality
Researchers divided the 3,678 individuals into two groups after calculating the average change in body weight; those with a high change in body weight and those with a low change in body weight. A high body weight variability was associated with high blood pressure, fasting glucose and obesity.
Of the individuals in the low body weight change group, 90 died within the 14-year follow-up period, with 12 being due to cardiovascular reasons, whereas in the high bodyweight change group, 173 died with 31 dying from cardiovascular events. Comparing the incidences of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both groups had similar rates of disease. Among individuals classified as obese according to body mass index, a large change in weight was associated with death but not diabetes.
Study did not consider whether weight loss was purposeful
A limitation of the study is that it did not account for whether the weight loss was purposeful or provide data on exercise and diet regimens of the participants. While losing weight, hormones responsible for hunger are elevated but those responsible for satiety, or the feeling of being full, decrease. When combined with a reduction in how much energy the body burns, weight gain is a common result. In all, the study provides insight into the effects of weight loss and weight regain among an uncommonly studied population.
Written by Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc
Reference: Oh, T., Moon, J.H., Choi, S.H., Lim, S., Park, K.S., Cho, N.H., & Jang, H.C. (2018). Body-weight fluctuation and incident diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and mortality: a 16-year prospective cohort study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2018-01239