Yo-yo dieting — repeatedly losing and regaining weight — increased the risk of dying from heart disease among postmenopausal women who started out at a normal weight in a new study.

“Weight cycling is an emerging global health concern associated with attempts of weight loss, but there have been inconsistent results about the health hazards for those who experience weight cycling behavior,” said the study’s lead investigator Somwail Rasla, M.D., of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.

The research was presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

Previous studies indicate that being overweight in midlife increases the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. But it’s unclear whether losing and regaining weight in adulthood also increases the risk of death from these heart diseases.

Researchers classified self-reported weight history from 158,063 postmenopausal women into four categories: stable weight, steady gain, maintained weight loss and weight cycling. During a follow-up of 11.4 years, they found:

  • Women considered normal-weight at the start of the study who lost and regained weight had about three and a half times higher risk for sudden cardiac death than women whose weight remained stable.

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