Background: The possible adverse health effects of weight cycling (weight loss followed by weight regain) have been the subject of recent concern. To determine whether such weight cycling negatively influences cardiovascular risk factors, 153 overweight individuals were followed up prospectively through a 30-month weight loss and maintenance program.
Methods: Subjects were divided into seven groups according to their weight-change patterns during this 30-month study (steady weight loss of different magnitudes, weight gain, no change in weight, and different weight-cycling patterns). These weight-change groups were compared with regard to lipid levels, blood pressure measurements, waist-to-hip ratio, and percent body fat at 0, 6, 12, 18, and 30 months.
Results: No adverse effects of weight cycling on any of the cardiovascular risk factors were observed. Subjects who initially lost 9.0 kg or more and then regained it did not differ from those who had no change in weight with regard to any cardiovascular risk factor at month 30. Subjects who gained weight during the 30-month interval increased their risk factors, those who lost weight decreased their risk factors in proportion to the magnitude of weight loss, and, in general, cardiovascular risk factors at month 30 were related to the net weight loss achieved and not the route taken to achieve the weight loss.
Conclusions: This study showed no negative effects of weight cycling on cardiovascular risk factors and confirmed previous findings of positive effects of weight loss on risk factors. Therefore, overweight individuals should be encouraged to lose weight and then maintain their weight loss.