Weight Cycling and Coronary Artery Disease

THE IMPACT of ‘weight cycling’ (here referring to repeated cycles of weight gain and loss) on health outcomes in patients with pre-existing heart disease has been reported following a USA-based study. A summary of the findings is that weight cycling may be associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in patients with pre-existing coronary artery disease.

The researchers examined data from 9,509 men and women aged between 35 and 75 years old with coronary heart disease, high levels of cholesterol, and a history of heart problems. All patients originally took part in the Treating to New Targets trial and were monitored for a median of 4.7 years. Patients with the greatest weight changes (≤3.9 kg) were discovered to experience 136% more strokes, 117% more heart attacks, and 124% more deaths compared with those patients with a shift in weight ~0.9 kg. However, changes in bodyweight were only found to be associated with statistically significant differences in health outcomes in patients who were already overweight or obese when the study began: not for people at a normal bodyweight.

Dr Sripal Bangalore, NYU Cardiac Catheterization Associates, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York University, New York City, New York, USA, stated that: “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.”

This study suggests a need for additional studies to be carried out into weight fluctuation in people with coronary heart disease as this study discerned an association between weight cycling and poor health outcomes, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship or a potential mechanism. Additionally, the authors noted the data did not contain the reasons why people lost weight. Dr Bangalore also spoke about further research directions as a result of these initial findings, commenting: “Even though this analysis was not designed to find out the causes of increased risk with body weight fluctuations, we need to examine how we can help Americans keep weight off, rather than having it go up and down.”

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