Weight cycling in adults with severe obesity: A longitudinal study

Nutr Diet. 2018 Jul;75(3):256-262. doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12387. Epub 2017 Nov 8.


Aim: Although weight cycling is a common phenomenon in treatment-seeking patients with obesity, its consequences on health outcomes have not yet been completely clarified. We therefore aimed to investigate the effect of one cycle of intentional weight loss and regain on energy expenditure, body composition, cardiovascular risk factors and psychosocial variables in patients with severe obesity.

Methods: Clinical and psychosocial variables were measured in 38 adult patients with severe obesity (body mass index (BMI): 43.5 ± 7.2 kg/m2 ) consecutively readmitted to rehabilitative residential treatment (T1) for severe obesity after a cycle of weight loss (16.7 ±7.7 kg) and regain (15.1 ±11.3 kg), and compared with those recorded at a prior admission (T0).

Results: No significant differences were found between T0 and T1 values for weight, BMI, waist circumference, total body fat percentage, fat-free mass percentage, respiratory quotient, measured or predicted resting energy expenditure, metabolic adaptation, cardiovascular risk factors or psychosocial variables. However, younger patients (r = -0.38, P = 0.023) and those with higher historical weight (r = 0.43, P = 0.010) tended to regain more weight.

Conclusions: The absence of negative physical and psychological effects of weight cycling indicates that the risk of weight regain should not be a barrier to encouraging weight loss efforts in patients with severe obesity.

Keywords: cardiovascular diseases; metabolic adaptation; obesity; weight cycling; weight regain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Bicycling*
  • Body Composition
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid / metabolism
  • Obesity, Morbid / rehabilitation
  • Obesity, Morbid / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Gain / physiology*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*