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February 2024
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Why Yo-Yo Is a No-Go!

Study Shows How Yo-Yo Diets Are Doomed to Failure

Yo-yo diets rarely succeed.  Recently released findings from The Scripps Research Institute illustrate why that's the case.

Yo-yo diets rarely succeed. Recently released findings from The Scripps Research Institute illustrate why that's the case.

I can’t stand it when people say, “I’m on a diet.”  I typically hear this refrain when friends of mine say they want to lose a few; for a short while, they abandon the glut to lose that gut and avoid the yummy to tighten their tummy.

It drives me crazy, though, because once they lose their weight, nine times out of 10, they go right back to their same old eating patterns, and nine times out of 10, they wind up putting on as much, if not more weight, than before.

Sound familiar?  It’s called yo-yo dieting, and it’s something that just about everyone experiences who goes on a “diet.”  But this is precisely why “dieting” is a wrong approach to take for weight loss; it’s destined for doom.  If you want to lose weight, you have to commit to a lifestyle change.  That’s the only real way to ensure success.  But don’t take my word for it.  A study from The Scripps Research Institute says the same thing.

To examine the effects of “yo-yo dieting,” researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine fed two groups of lab rats varying diets.  One group was fed a balanced diet, while the other group was fed a diet where sweet treats were a constant feature.  The rats were able to eat as much or as little of the food as they wanted, but with the yo-yo dieting rats, the researchers swapped their food options in five-day intervals (e.g., five days of a balanced diet, five days of a sweet diet, five days of a balanced diet…).

At the end of the study, the researchers observed some commonalities in the rats’ behavior and brain chemistry.  In their behavior, they found that both groups ate less when given a balanced diet compared to when they ate a sweetened diet.  This was particularly noticeable after the yo-yo dieting rats cycled off the sweetened diet.  But what was even more interesting was that once the yo-yo dieting rats went back on the sweet diet, they returned to their habit of eating more.  For the rats fed a balanced diet consistently, they ate pretty much the same amount throughout.

The changes in food consumption for the yo-yo dieting rats became more understandable when the researchers examined the rats’ brains, specifically the amygdala.  Among many other functions, the amygdala is the section of the brain that’s involved in the body’s reactions to stress.

In the amygdala, the researchers looked at how much of a neuropeptide called corticotrophin-releasing factor, or CRF, was released.  When the body is under stress—or even when the body thinks it’s under stress, but may in fact not be—there is a greater release of this neuropeptide.  So when the researchers found that the yo-yo dieting rats had a CRF neuropeptide level that was five times higher than the control rats on the same diet, they understood why:  They were experiencing withdrawal symptoms from being on the sweet stuff.  It was only when they cycled back on to the sweet diet that the CRF levels returned to normal.

Speaking about the study’s results, lead author Dr. Eric Zorrill, said, “Our findings suggest that intermittently eating sweet food changes the brain’s stress system so that you might feel stressed, even though nothing that terrible has happened.”

Zorrill’s co-author elaborated on the potential pitfalls of this kind of dieting, saying that yo-yo dieting “leads to a vicious cycle.  The more you cycle this way, the more likely it is you cycle again.”

The full details of the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

I hearken back to my original point.  If you’re really serious about losing weight, you don’t diet, you commit to a lifestyle change.  This study illustrates why that’s necessary.


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