Weight Fluctuation Linked to Heart Health Risks, Study Says

It’s long been said that major weight fluctuations are likely not good for our health, though the exact impact on heart health has not been understood — until now.

Researchers set out to determine the impact of fluctuations in body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared, on heart health. Their results, published in JAMA Network Open Thursday, show that it can significantly increase the risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

The study found that major BMI variations increase the risk of excessive changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, which leads to more heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular deaths.


To conduct the study, researchers first analyzed health records from 92,363 participants in the Million Veteran Program, a large and racially diverse database. To increase female representation within the study, the authors then analyzed data from 65,047 individuals in the U.K. Biobank (UKB), a large-scale biomedical database.

The researchers found that significant BMI variation was associated with a 16% higher risk for composite cardiovascular disease across all groups.

This remained true after accounting for cardiovascular disease risk factors, including age, sex, mean BMI, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, smoking status, diabetes status, and statin use.

“This cohort study found that among US veterans, higher BMI variability was a significant risk marker associated with adverse cardiovascular events independent of mean BMI across major racial and ethnic groups,” the authors wrote. “Results were consistent in the UKB for the cardiovascular death end point.”

The authors don’t know exactly why BMI fluctuation increases such risks, and they say further research is needed to understand the connection between BMI variation and heart risks.


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