Measuring the impact of weight cycling on body composition: a methodological challenge

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Sep;17(5):396-400. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000092.


Purpose of review: The impact of weight cycling on body composition and metabolic risk remains controversial. Very few studies, however, meet the methodological requirements to analyze and normalize changes in body composition with weight loss and regain.

Recent findings: Methodological drawbacks that limit the interpretation of results are as follows:first, a small and only partial weight regain, second, the choice of an obese study population who experiences only small changes in fat-free mass, third, a lack of adjustment for the age-related decline in fat-free mass when examining elderly people and fourth, a lack of validity and precision of the body composition method that are important in a nonstable condition of weight loss and for measuring small changes in body composition. Normalization of changes in fat and lean mass for baseline body composition and measurement of fat and lean tissue distribution lead to further insights into the etiology and consequences of weight cycling.

Summary: Current evidence does not support an adverse effect of weight cycling on body composition. By contrast, severe weight loss in normal-weight people that comprises a large loss of lean mass may shift the partitioning toward a transient higher regain in total and abdominal fat mass.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Fluid Compartments / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Weight Gain / physiology*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*