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Nutr Diabetes. 2013 Jun 24;3:e79. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2013.19.

Atherosclerosis and cardiac function assessment in low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice undergoing body weight cycling.

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  • 1Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.



Obesity has become an epidemic in many countries and is supporting a billion dollar industry involved in promoting weight loss through diet, exercise and surgical procedures. Because of difficulties in maintaining body weight reduction, a pattern of weight cycling often occurs (so called 'yo-yo' dieting) that may result in deleterious outcomes to health. There is controversy about cardiovascular benefits of yo-yo dieting, and an animal model is needed to better understand the contributions of major diet and body weight changes on heart and vascular functions. Our purpose is to determine the effects of weight cycling on cardiac function and atherosclerosis development in a mouse model.


We used low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice due to their sensitivity to metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases when fed high-fat diets. Alternating ad libitum feeding of high-fat and low-fat (rodent chow) diets was used to instigate weight cycling during a 29-week period. Glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity tests were done at 22 and 24 weeks, echocardiograms at 25 weeks and atherosclerosis and plasma lipoproteins assessed at 29 weeks.


Mice subjected to weight cycling showed improvements in glucose homeostasis during the weight loss cycle. Weight-cycled mice showed a reduction in the severity of atherosclerosis as compared with high-fat diet-fed mice. However, atherosclerosis still persisted in weight-cycled mice as compared with mice fed rodent chow. Cardiac function was impaired in weight-cycled mice and matched with that of mice fed only the high-fat diet.


This model provides an initial structure in which to begin detailed studies of diet, calorie restriction and surgical modifications on energy balance and metabolic diseases. This model also shows differential effects of yo-yo dieting on metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.

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