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Not all forms of cycling are good for the health.

Riding a bicycle is great for one's health, but weight cycling is another matter. Known more commonly as "yo-yo dieting," its health risks are becoming increasingly recognized. Anyone who has seriously tackled the problem of obesity knows that long-term weight loss is extremely difficult to maintain. In an Obesity Update conference at Emory University this past September, sponsored by the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, four experts presented four different perspectives on treatment options.

Dr. George Blackburn of the Harvard Medical School said, "Epidemiologic data have suggested that weight gain rather than weight loss is associated with greater longevity and that weight loss is in fact associated with greater mortality. Good news. Americans want to hear that they don't have to diet anymore. Doctors want to hear that they don't have to tell their patients to lose weight--a treatment that for the majority will fail (and no one likes to fail). However, to give in to this sentiment would be to set back improvements in public health by several decades--and to sentence future generations to early disability and death. Obesity has been conclusively shown to increase the risk of noninsulin-dependent diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder diseases, and certain cancers. Obesity is a disease, and it is unethical (for physicians) to refuse treatment for any disease."

"Limited weight gain during the adult years is associated with favorable survival experience," said Dr. Reubin Andres of the National Institute on Aging. Citing 10 studies on the long-term effects of change of weight, he noted that while "mortality is lowest in the segment of the population that gained some weight during the adult years, factors such as weight loss due to illness and changes in cigarette smoking habits may have had some influence on the findings."

Dr. David Garner, professor of psychiatry and director of research of the Eating Disorder Program at Michigan State University, was dismayed at the medical establishment's reliance on dietary treatments for obesity. Although many weight loss programs lead to initial weight loss, they are almost inevitably followed by subsequent weight gain, he noted. Mounting evidence suggests that the health risks of obesity may be less than the risks of losing, then regaining weight. He believes that the obese person is best served by simply assisting in maintaining a high but stable weight.

Alternatives to weight loss include treating factors associated with obesity, such as alcohol use, dietary fat and sugar intake, and sedentary lifestyles. Preferable options are exercise programs specifically designed for obese persons and methods to help them normalize eating--and to stop restricting and binge eating.

Finally, Dr. William Dietz of the New England Medical Center in Boston stressed the importance of obesity prevention in children. "Childhood obesity accounts for approximately 30 percent of adult obesity," he said. Dietz also noted that the obese child who becomes an obese adult will have more severe obesity than that of adults whose obesity began in adulthood. Stressing obesity prevention in children would prevent adult obesity from occurring, he believes.
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Title Annotation:weight cycling or "yo-yo dieting"
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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