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Is weight cycling associated with adverse health outcomes? A cohort study

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posted on 13.03.2018, 13:50 by Claire D. Madigan, Toby Pavey, Amanda DaleyAmanda Daley, Kate Jolly, Wendy J. Brown
Evidence about the health effects of weight cycling is not consistent, with some studies suggesting it is harmful for health. Here we investigated whether weight cycling was associated with weight change and mental health outcomes in 10,428 participants in the mid-age cohort of The Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health (ALSWH) over 12 years. In 1998 the women were asked how many times they had ever intentionally lost at least 5 kg and how many times had they regained this amount. Women were categorised into four weight pattern groups: frequent weight cyclers (FWC, three or more weight cycles), low frequency weight cyclers (LFWC, one or two weight cycles), non-weight cyclers (NWC), and weight loss only (WL). We used generalised linear modelling to investigate relationships between weight pattern group, weight change and mental health outcomes. In 1998, 15% of the women were FWC, 24% LFWC, 46% NWC and 15% were WL. Weight change was similar across weight pattern groups in women with obesity, however healthy weight and overweight FWC gained more weight than women who did not weight cycle. We found no difference in overall mental health scores between groups, but both LFWC and FWC had higher odds of depressive symptoms (adjusted OR 1.5, 95%CI: 1.1 to 1.9 and 1.7, 95%CI: 1.1 to 2.4, respectively) than NWC. Our results suggest that, although weight cycling is not associated with greater weight gain in women with obesity, it may increase depressive symptoms.


This research analyses did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. However the research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, The University of Newcastle and The University of Queensland. We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health for funding.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Preventive Medicine


MADIGAN, C.D. ... et al, 2017. Is weight cycling associated with adverse health outcomes? A cohort study. Preventive Medicine, 108, pp.47-52.


© Elsevier


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Preventive Medicine and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.12.010