Evidence suggests yo-yo dieting can be super harmful to your health. Here’s why.
Credit: Peter Dazeley

Your weight can fluctuate naturally due to changes in eating habits, how much salt you eat, or certain chronic conditions or illnesses. But your weight can also fluctuate dramatically if you’re crash dieting. That up-and-down cycle has a few names: weight cycling, or "yo-yo" dieting, and it’s been linked to a slew of negative side effects—including an increased risk of death.

Researchers investigated the health risks associated with yo-yo dieting in a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The authors behind the new report studied the results of the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study, examining data from more than 3,600 men and women previously enrolled in the first study. They found that weight cycling was actually associated with a higher risk of mortality.

It's important to note that the study wasn't all negative—obese individuals who experienced weight loss during crash diets were found to be less likely to develop type-2 diabetes over time. But perfectly healthy individuals who frequently gained weight after rapid weight loss were at greater risk for earlier deaths than those who did not.

This isn't the first piece of key research regarding yo-yo dieting. According to a report from The Verge, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who frequently repeated rapid weight gain and loss experienced more strokes and cardiovascular events than those who did not. Researchers behind this report drew conclusions from data sourced from 10,000 men and women plagued by coronary artery disease.

Healthy diet trends for you to consider:

Another study, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2006, also suggests that weight cycling introduces wild fluctuations in blood pressure, heart rates, blood lipids, and blood glucose levels. Previous research, however, solely focused on those suffering from already-existing cardiovascular issues—this new study is the first to focus on a diverse pool of respondents.

If you're planning to lose weight, it's always important to talk to your health provider and fully understand any potential health risks. Healthy diets are never designed to be a short-term solution, but rather a lifestyle change.