Introduction: Weight cycling is thought to be harmful for health, although evidence is conflicting. Here we have examined the prevalence of weight cycling in a representative population sample of women and evaluated the association with weight change and health outcomes 12 years later.
Methods: The Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health is a prospective study of factors shaping the health and well-being of Australian women. These analyses used data from the mid cohort, at survey two (aged 47-52 years) (1998) and survey six (2010). Weight cyclers were defined as those women who lost or gained 5 kg three times or more. The other outcomes investigated were: CESD-10 scores and the mental health and physical component scores from the SF36 questionnaire. Generalised linear modelling was used to investigate percentage weight change and health variables by weight cycling group.
Results: The prevalence of weight cycling was 14.6%. ‘Weight cyclers’ on average had a higher BMI. Weight cyclers on average gained less percentage weight than those who had never lost weight over 12 years (mean difference -1.7 (-2.5 to -0.9). There was no difference in the association of overall mental health scores by group. However in the ‘Weight Cyclers’ group there were higher odds of women having depressive symptoms at survey six (OR 1.27 95% CI 1.04 to 1.55) than non dieters.There were significant higher odds of having lower physical component scores 12 years later in the dieters compared to all other groups.
Conclusions: The prevalence of weight cycling was low and was associated with less percentage weight loss 12 years later. There was some evidence to suggest an association with weight cycling and greater depressive symptoms 12 years later.