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Health Risks of Yo-Yo Dieting

author image Clay McNight
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.
Health Risks of Yo-Yo Dieting
A cleansing tea made with Chinese herbs. Photo Credit: erwo1/iStock/Getty Images

What many yo-yo dieters are unaware of are the very serious risk factors associated with this dangerous weight-loss method. These factors include an increased risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes; damage to arteries; less energy; muscle wasting; and higher levels of body fat.

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Increased Risk Factors for Disease

Extreme calorie restriction, which is a common practice among yo-yo dieters, can increase the stress hormone known as cortisol. When this hormone is present in your body over long periods of time, it can have myriad negative health effects. In fact, it can even increase your risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Naturopathic doctor Natasha Turner claims that yo-yo dieting can also damage arteries and cause an increase in LDL cholesterol, both of which increase the risk of heart disease. These effects may arise particularly in those who have gone on a yo-yo diet more than five times in their life.

Less Muscle, More Fat

While yo-yo dieting may initially promote fat loss, in the long term you will likely regain that fat and more. In addition, low-calorie diets lead to muscle wasting, which means once you get back to your normal eating habits, you'll be left with a physique that lacks muscle and carries excess fat. Doctor Anthony Komaroff notes that this excess body fat can have negative health consequences, including the onset of chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Less Energy

Yo-yo dieting slows down your metabolism, which can lead to low energy levels. When the body doesn't have the necessary calories to function, it makes adjustments. These adjustments can mean limited brain function, tiredness, fatigue and irritability.

A Healthier Approach

A much healthier, safer and more permanent approach to weight loss is to slowly and consistently lose weight over a longer period of time. You should not attempt to lose more than 1 or 2 pounds a week. If you've already done damage to your system through yo-yo dieting, Turner notes three things you can do to help reverse this damage: consume more protein and do strength training, as they both help restore metabolism; and support your liver because it's important for fat burning. Four herbs that can promote liver health include milk thistle, dandelion root, globe artichoke and turmeric.

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