I’m not sure about girls and women, but there’s a lesson that boys and men learn from playing with yo-yos as kids: If you keep working at it, you can master The Throw Down and The Sleeper, Walk-The-Dog and Rock-The-Baby.

And now it appears that yo-yoing has gotten a bad rap – at least in the world of weight control.

By some reports, yo-yo dieting is so prevalent in the Western world that it affects between 10 and 40 percent of the population. But, the good news is that – despite the popular myth – yo-yo dieting does not negatively impact metabolism or inhibit a person’s ability to lose weight in the long run.

“A history of unsuccessful weight loss should not dissuade an individual from future attempts to shed pounds or diminish the role of a healthy diet and regular physical activity in successful weight management,” reports Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Science Division and senior author of a new article published online in the journal Metabolism.

The statistics are frightening: two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese and nearly half of American women are dieting to lose weight; and, weight is a major risk factor for many cancers, as well as heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. McTiernan pointed out that the World Health Organization has estimated that a quarter to a third of cancers could be prevented if people would maintain normal, healthy body weights and a physically active lifestyle.

The goal of McTiernan’s intervention was to determine whether women with a history of moderate or severe weight cycling were disadvantaged in losing weight when compared to non-weight-cyclers. In the study, 77 women (18 percent) met the criteria for severe weight cycling – having reported losing 20 or more pounds on three or more occasions, and 24 percent (103 women) met the criteria for moderate weight cycling – having reported losing 10 or more pounds on three or more occasions. In the study – based on data from 439 over-weight-to-obese, sedentary Seattle-area women 50 to 75 years old – participants were divided into four groups: a reduced-calories diet, exercise only (mainly brisk walking), reduced-calorie diet plus exercise, and a control group that received no intervention. After one year, the diet-only and diet-plus-exercise groups lost an average of 10 percent of body weight – the goal of the intervention.

At the study’s close, researchers found no significant differences with regard to ability to successfully participate in the diet and/or exercise programs between those who yo-yo dieted and those who did not. No significant differences were found between yo-yoers and non-yo-yoers on other physiological factors such as blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and blood concentrations of hormones such as leptin, which helps make one feel full/satiated, and adiponectin, which helps regulate glucose levels.

The study report is significant because . “To our knowledge, no previous studies have examined the effect of prior weight cycling on the body composition, metabolic and hormonal changes induced by a comprehensive lifestyle intervention in free-living women,” the authors wrote.

Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Canadian Institutes of Health, the study included investigators at Harvard Medical School, the National Cancer Institute and the University of Washington.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Posted in: Brain Training, Weight Issues

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