Led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center, a study was conducted to first measure the effect of “weight cycling” on health outcomes in people with pre-existing heart disease. People with the largest weight changes were found to experience 136 percent more strokes, 117 percent more heart attacks, and 124 percent more deaths than those with the smallest shifts in weight. Those in the high-fluctuation group had weight changes as large as 3.9 kilograms (or roughly 8.6 pounds), while weight varied by around 0.9 kilograms (just under 2 pounds) in the group with the smallest shifts in weight.
“Our findings suggest that we need to be concerned about weight fluctuation in this group that is already at high risk due to coronary disease,” says lead study author Sripal Bangalore, MD, director of the cardiovascular outcomes group in the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU Langone.
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The research team reviewed data on 9,509 men and women with coronary artery disease who participated in the Treating to New Targets trial, which originally concluded in 2005. Study participants were between the ages of 35 and 75. All had coronary artery disease, high cholesterol levels, and some history of heart problems. Half were being treated with cholesterol-lowering drugs in intensive (versus standard) doses to see if this resulted in fewer deaths. All were monitored for a median of 4.7 years. The analysis linked shifts in body weight to statistically significant differences in outcomes only in people who were overweight or obese at the beginning of the study, but not for people who started with normal weight.