Is weight cycling associated with adverse health outcomes? A cohort study

Prev Med. 2018 Mar;108:47-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.12.010. Epub 2017 Dec 22.


Evidence about the health effects of weight cycling is not consistent, with some studies suggesting it is harmful for health. Here we investigated whether weight cycling was associated with weight change and mental health outcomes in 10,428 participants in the mid-age cohort of The Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health (ALSWH) over 12years. In 1998 the women were asked how many times they had ever intentionally lost at least 5kg and how many times had they regained this amount. Women were categorised into four weight pattern groups: frequent weight cyclers (FWC, three or more weight cycles), low frequency weight cyclers (LFWC, one or two weight cycles), non-weight cyclers (NWC), and weight loss only (WL). We used generalised linear modelling to investigate relationships between weight pattern group, weight change and mental health outcomes. In 1998, 15% of the women were FWC, 24% LFWC, 46% NWC and 15% were WL. Weight change was similar across weight pattern groups in women with obesity, however healthy weight and overweight FWC gained more weight than women who did not weight cycle. We found no difference in overall mental health scores between groups, but both LFWC and FWC had higher odds of depressive symptoms (adjusted OR 1.5, 95%CI: 1.1 to 1.9 and 1.7, 95%CI: 1.1 to 2.4, respectively) than NWC. Our results suggest that, although weight cycling is not associated with greater weight gain in women with obesity, it may increase depressive symptoms.

Keywords: Health; Weight cycling; Weight loss; Weight management; Weight regain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet, Reducing / methods*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain / physiology*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*