An Upside to Yo-Yo Dieting

Weight cycling not linked to cancer risk in men or women

Lose a few, gain a few — many dieters struggle with the yo-yo problem. But there’s some good news on that front.

A new study from the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that yo-yo dieting was not linked to an increased cancer risk.

"For the millions of Americans struggling to lose weight, the last thing they need to worry about is that if it comes back, they might raise their risk of cancer,” said lead study author and Strategic Director of Laboratory Services at the ACS Victoria Stevens, PhD, in a press release. “This study, to our knowledge the largest and most comprehensive to date on the issue, should be reassuring."

According to Dr. Stevens and team, obesity is known to increase the risk of some cancers.

Past research has indicated that yo-yo dieting — also known as weight cycling — might also increase the risk of cancer because repeated weight loss and regain was thought to affect the biological processes that cause cancer.

The results of these studies varied, however.

Dr. Stevens and team looked at data on more than 132,000 men and women in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

This study, which began in 1992, collected detailed dietary data on people ages 50 to 74.

Dr. Stevens and team looked at the link between weight cycling and cancer — in general, as well as in 15 individual cancers.

No link between weight cycling and the risk of cancer was found.

"Our findings suggest that overweight and obese individuals shouldn’t let fears about their ability to maintain weight loss keep them from trying to lose weight in the first place," Dr. Stevens said.

This study was published in the August issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The American Cancer Society funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.