Losing weight is one thing, keeping it off quite another. And now researchers are finding that among those with coronary heart disease (CHD)—which the Mayo Clinic reports develops from damaged or diseased blood vessels typically caused by blockage and inflammation—yo-yo dieting may dramatically increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death. Reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers say they followed nearly 10,000 men and women with CHD between the ages of 35 and 75 for about five years, monitoring changes in body weight and other health outcomes. The takeaway? "It's important to lose weight, but this data says you have to keep it off," lead researcher Dr. Sripal Bangalore at the New York University School of Medicine tells the New York Times.
The highest weight fluctuation was on average 8.6 pounds over five years, while the smallest body weight changes averaged closer to two pounds, reports Medical News Today. Those who were already overweight or obese at the beginning of the study and who experienced the highest level of weight fluctuation experienced 124% more deaths, 136% more strokes, and 117% more heart attacks, meaning these CHD patients were more than twice as likely to suffer these negative outcomes in just a few years than people with CHD whose weight only fluctuated two pounds. This doesn't pinpoint a cause, as pre-existing heart problems could be the culprit, but researchers hope to study this correlation further. (Yo-yo dieting is bad for women's hearts in general.)