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Dieting Weakens Immune System

?And it doesn't work, either. Most dieters end up gaining more weight than they lost. Losing and regaining weight may harm your immune system, while maintaining the same weight over a long period of time is good for it.

When researchers studied 114 overweight but otherwise healthy women, they found that their immune system function had decreased in proportion to the number of times they'd gone on a diet, making the dieters more susceptible to viruses and even some forms of cancer.

Researcher Cornelia Ulrich says, "While one weight-loss episode of 10 pounds or more in the previous 20 years was not associated with [a weakened immune system], more frequent weight-loss episodes" were. Women who reported losing weight more than five times had immune systems that worked only two-thirds as well as women whose weight didn't fluctuate.

Ulrich says, "There's clearly evidence that weight loss is beneficial for your health. What we're concerned about is this pattern of weight cycling where women go up and down."Exercise has been shown to increase immunity and help prevent some of the negative effects of dieting.

Many people who diet end up gaining more weight than they lose. In the U.K. one third of dieters surveyed admitted they ended up even heavier after their diets. They lost weight initially, but gained it all back?along with even more pounds. One fifth of them gained more than six extra pounds. Only one in five people could stay on a diet for as long as a month, and only one in ten dieted for as long as eight weeks. Only one fifth reached their target weight, and two-thirds put all of their weight back on again, often as quickly as a month. Women were less successful than men. Nearly 40% of women ended up being heavier than when they had started their diets, compared with 20% of men.

Dietician Amanda Wynne says, "[Diets] are very temporary solutions to weight loss."

When you suddenly eat a lot less, your body adjusts by changing its metabolic rate, so you can stay the same weight with less food. This slower metabolism leads to even more weight gain when you start eating normally again. The only way to lose weight is to change your eating habits gradually?and keep them that way for life.

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