New research suggests a tasty way to stop the yo-yo dieting cycle and prevent weight regain.
It’s a well-known tale: A large percentage of those who lose weight end up gaining it all back—and often more. For a long time, it was assumed that this was because dieters lapse back into the eating habits that caused them to gain weight in the first place. But over the past several years, there have been a series of studies showing that there is something else at work.
People who have lost weight experience long-term changes in their metabolism that make it extremely difficult to maintain that weight loss, even when they are vigilant about maintaining healthy eating habits. Their bodies simply burn fewer calories than those who have never been overweight.
The result is yo-yo dieting, where people repeatedly lose and gain and lose the same 40 or 50 pounds many times over the course of their lives. Not only is this frustrating, it’s actually dangerous. Yo-yo dieting is hard on your heart and increases the risk of various diseases.
However, some new research done at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel sheds some light on what might be going on—and how we might be able to stop the cycle.
An End to Yo Yo Dieting?
When we gain weight, the makeup of our intestinal bacteria also changes in ways that tend to promote further weight gain. When we lose weight, however, our intestinal bacteria do not change back to the bacterial profile we had before we gained the weight. You may be slimmer on the outside, but according to the bacteria in your gut, you’re still fat.
This latest research demonstrates that the persistence of these obesity-associated bacteria in our guts could be a major factor in our tendency to regain weight we’ve lost. Researchers were able to prevent obese mice who had lost weight from regaining weight by transferring bacteria from the guts of lean mice into their intestines.
That, in and of itself, isn’t terribly useful because—short of fecal transplants—we haven’t yet figured out how to transform the bacteria population in your intestines from one that favors weight gain to one that favors lean body weight.