“Yo-yo” dieting isn’t just a problem for your clothing budget as you try to keep up with your fluctuating jean size. It’s also bad for your bones. As unwanted pounds melt away, a dieter’s skeleton typically loses mass and strength. When the pounds come back, the lost bone doesn’t.
That conundrum is the focus of research at Oregon State University. “We’re trying to determine if there’s a way to lose excessive weight while preserving bone density,” says Urszula Iwaniec, a bone-health specialist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
A hormone that regulates hunger in the brain may hold the key, new research suggests. Rats that received injections of leptin directly to their brains lost as much as 20 percent of their body weight without losing bone, Iwaniec and her colleagues found. Plus, the lost weight — much of it abdominal poundage — stayed off.
“Using leptin at the level of the hypothalamus to control weight is where, at some point, we believe we’re going to be able to control weight gain,” says Iwaniec, while cautioning that a lot more study is needed before the therapy becomes a treatment for humans.