Jewish World Review April 4, 2003 / 1 Nisan II, 5763

SLIM CHANCES: How to ruin your heart by dieting

By Bev Bennett | Yo-yo dieting isn't just frustrating and demoralizing; it's bad for your health. If you're a woman who goes on and off diets with some regularity, you could be setting yourself up for heart problems in your later years.

Women who gain and/or lose at least 10 pounds in a year, and who do so at least five times over a lifetime, may have reduced blood flow to the heart, regardless of their current weight, according to researchers at the Veterans Administration/Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Healthcare System.

"Unfortunately, most women do this kind of yo-yo dieting,'' says Claire Duvernoy, M.D., who is director of the Cardiac Catheterization laboratory at the facility and an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. Even if you're now a normal weight, getting to that goal through yo-yo dieting may increase your chances of eventually suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Duvernoy says she's not sure how up-and-down weight gain affects the linings of heart vessels. But yo-yo dieters lose muscle mass, she adds, and that might provide a clue to the link.

When you lose weight quickly, you lose muscle and that may also include heart muscle, says Katherine Tallmadge, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a registered dietitian in Washington, D.C.

Ideally, women should never engage in yo-yo dieting. Duvernoy says young women should be aware of the risk and strive for a healthy weight -- avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy and establishing an exercise program that they can stick with. "Regular exercise preserves cardiovascular blood flow,'' she says.

But don't think that maintaining excessive weight is safer. Being overweight also means you have a greater probability of developing diabetes, certain cancers and congestive heart failure. It's not an acceptable alternative to yo-yo dieting, say experts.

If you should lose weight, do so through a slow and steady plan, Tallmadge advises. "Setting some concrete goals will help you make small changes,'' says Tallmadge, a weight-loss specialist and author of "Diet Simple'' (LifeLine Press, 2002), a book of recipes and 154 tips for weight loss.

She offers the following recommendations for life-long weight control:

-- Feed yourself well and often during the day, and eat light at night, and you can lose up to 50 pounds in a year. Eat a third of your caloric needs at breakfast. -- Don't avoid your favorite foods. "When people are restricted from their favorite foods, they rebound,'' says Tallmadge. "Find a balance. Can you splurge on a dessert in a restaurant every night? No. Once a week? Yes.''

-- Weigh yourself at least once a week, so you can eat more moderately if your weight starts to creep up.

-- Cook large quantities of food at a time, and freeze or refrigerate portions so you don't have to eat out all the time.

-- Don't give up if you've gained weight after a previous diet effort.

"Some people are lucky enough to come in to my practice without having dieted before. After you've dieted once, it may be harder. But one thing will take. The thing that works is following a healthy diet,'' says Tallmadge.

Bev Bennett is co-author of "The Dictionary of Healthful Food Terms'' Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Distributed by TMS