Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: an overview

Obes Rev. 2015 Feb:16 Suppl 1:1-6. doi: 10.1111/obr.12250.


Every year, scores of millions of people - as diverse as obese and lean, teenagers and older adults, sedentary and elite athletes, commoners and celebrities - attempt to lose weight on some form of diet. They are often encouraged by their parents, friends, health professionals, training coaches, a media that promotes a slim image and a diet-industry that in Europe and United States alone has an annual turnover in excess of $150 billion. Weight regain is generally the rule, with one-third to two-thirds of the weight lost being regained within 1 year and almost all is regained within 5 years. With studies of the long-term outcomes showing that at least one-third of dieters regain more weight than they lost, together with prospective studies indicating that dieting during childhood and adolescence predicts future weight gain and obesity, there is concern as to whether dieting may paradoxically be promoting exactly the opposite of what it is intended to achieve. Does dieting really make people fatter? How? Does dieting increase the risks for cardiometabolic diseases as many go through repeated cycles of intentional weight loss and unintentional weight regain, i.e. through yo-yo dieting or weight cycling? What's new in adipose tissue biology pertaining to the mechanisms that drive weight regain? Why does exercise not necessarily work in concert with dieting to achieve weight loss and prevent weight regain? What 'lessons' are we learning from bariatric surgery about the mechanisms by which long-term weight loss seems achievable? It is these questions, against a background of preoccupation with dieting, that recent advances and controversies relevant to the theme of 'Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome' are addressed in this overview and the eight review articles in this supplement reporting the proceedings of the 7th Fribourg Obesity Research Conference.

Keywords: Dietary restraint; dieting; obesity; weight cycling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Reducing / methods*
  • Exercise
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Prospective Studies
  • Weight Gain*
  • Weight Loss*