OBJECTIVES: We undertook an analysis of weight cycling, coronary risk factors and angiographic coronary artery disease (CAD) in women. BACKGROUND: The effect of weight cycling on cardiovascular mortality and morbidity is controversial, and the impact of weight cycling on cardiovascular risk factors is unclear. METHODS: This is a cross-sectional population study of 485 women with coronary risk factors undergoing coronary angiography for evaluation of suspected myocardial ischemia enrolled in the Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE). Reported lifetime weight cycling-defined as voluntary weight loss of at least 10 lbs at least 3 times--coronary risk factors including core laboratory determined blood lipoproteins and CAD, as determined by a core angiographic laboratory, are the main outcome measures. RESULTS: Overall, 27% of women reported weight cycling--19% cycled 10 to 19 lbs, 6% cycled 20 to 49 lbs, and 2% cycled 50+ lbs. Reported weight cycling was associated with 7% lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels in women (p = 0.01). The HDL-C effect was directly related to the amount of weight cycled with women who lost > or = 50 lbs/cycle having HDL-C levels 27% lower than noncyclers (p = 0.0025). This finding was independent of other HDL-C modulators, including estrogen status, physical activity level, alcohol intake, body mass index, diabetes, beta-blocker use, cigarette smoking and race. Weight cycling was not associated with an increased prevalence of CAD in this population. CONCLUSIONS: Weight cycling is associated with lower HDL-C in women of a magnitude that is known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiac events as demonstrated in prior clinical trials.