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It is frequently claimed that weight cycling, or "yo-yo" dieting, causes an inappropriate and permanent loss of lean body mass (LBM). Data are presented from a rural African population that undergoes profound weight cycling caused by an annual hungry season. No detrimental effect on LBM was observed. Data are also presented from an 18-wk prospective study of moderately obese British women who underwent three cycles of VLCD-induced weight loss and subsequent relapse. The proportion of weight lost as LBM was no greater than predicted. A review of the published results from experimental weight cycling in small animals also shows a high level of consensus that cycling does not significantly alter body composition. We conclude that, although weight cycling may affect growth of young animals, metabolic efficiency, and health, these effects are not mediated through permanent alterations in body composition.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Clin Nutr

Publication Date





209S - 216S


Adipose Tissue, Aging, Animals, Body Composition, Humans, Organ Size, Weight Gain, Weight Loss