What are the effects of constant weight changes on our heart?
After various diets, many people experience the so-called yo-yo effect, which means that they lose weight again in a short time. Doctors have now found that if women have suffered from the yo-yo effect in the past or have had to go through a rapidly changing weight cycle, this has led to increased cardiovascular risk factors.
Scientists at Columbia University Irving Medical Center recently found that patterns in which women show weight gain (yo-yo effect) following weight loss contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular risk factors compared to women who had a constant weight. The experts presented preliminary data from their study at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Houston.
Many women experience the yo-yo effect after losing weight
Numerous studies have shown that maintaining a healthy weight is a good way to reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses. More than a third of post-menopausal women who underwent a large national observational study reported that the efforts to lose weight were halted by a quick return to their weight before the diet. Experts call such an effect a weight cycle.
So far there have been few studies with women on this topic
So-called weight cycles are quite common, especially for people who want to improve their cardiovascular health, the doctors explain. "However, it is difficult to draw conclusions from previous studies that focused mainly on middle-aged white men with a history of heart disease, as some found a link between weight loss and cardiovascular risk, while others did not," said study author Brooke Aggarwal of Columbia University Irving Medical Center in a press release. Such research has also failed to consider specific issues in a woman's life that are typically associated with weight gain, such as pregnancy and menopause.
Experts examined 485 women for their study
For the current study, the doctors examined a more differentiated group of 485 women between the ages of 20 and 76 with an average body mass index (BMI) of 26, who is already considered overweight. The women reported that, except during pregnancy, they had lost at least ten pounds within a year and then put on weight again. Doctors then assessed each woman's cardiovascular health based on behavior and risk factors that resulted from a combination of heart health, BMI, blood pressure, total cholesterol, glucose, physical activity, diet, and smoking.
Women without children were more affected
More than 70 percent of women had experienced a yo-yo effect at least once. Of those affected, 29 percent had poor cardiovascular health. In addition, these women also had an 82 percent chance that they did not have an optimal BMI. The more often women underwent weight cycles, the worse their results in the study were, the experts say. The effects were similar for women before and after menopause, but more so for women who had never been pregnant.
More research is needed
"It is possible that pregnancy protects the heart in a way that we currently do not understand," says study author Aggarwal. "However, there are indications that weight cycles occurring in younger women before pregnancy can prepare a future cardiovascular risk," added the expert. Additional studies are now needed to determine exactly why weight cycles can negatively affect women's heart health.
Some studies suggest that a reduction in muscle mass during weight loss is replaced by fat when the weight is regained. Another guess is that blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and other values increase many times over with each weight gain, Aggarwal adds. (as)