If your doctor has recommended that you take antidepressants, chances are that you’ve wondered about the side effects, such as if there’s a relationship between antidepressants and weight gain. Although antidepressants can be a helpful part of a holistic approach towards treating depression, they have been shown to make people more likely to gain weight. This weight gain can sometimes be so severe that individuals in a previously healthy weight range end up becoming obese, putting them at a higher risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But why exactly do antidepressants make people more likely to gain weight, and what can you do to combat these negative effects?
Antidepressants and Weight Gain: The Facts and Stats
The link between antidepressants and weight gain has been well documented over the past few decades. Studies have shown that people who take antidepressants for an extended period of time are over 20% more likely to gain weight.
When taking antidepressants for two or more years, patients within a healthy weight range have been found to be nearly 30% more likely to become overweight or obese. This kind of weight gain is considered a serious health concern and is often linked with increased risks for multiple diseases and conditions. In one recent study that examined the relationship between antidepressants and weight gain, patients who ended up in an unhealthy weight range also heightened their risk for developing metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome increases the likelihood of a person developing irreversible conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
Why Are Antidepressants and Weight Gain Connected?
Although the relationship between antidepressants and weight gain has been researched for years, no one knows exactly why antidepressants lead to weight gain for a significant number of patients.
One theory is that people who experience depression are more likely to make unhealthy life choices, such as overeating or not getting enough physical activity. Some people who are depressed, however, rarely feel like eating. In this case, if the antidepressants start helping them, these people might accidentally gain some weight by rediscovering the simple daily pleasure of eating.
One of the most common theories is that antidepressants affect your metabolism. Antidepressants commonly affect the neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which is responsible for helping your digestive system. This interference with your levels of serotonin could potentially slow down the rate that your body processes fat and sugar and/or increase your desire for foods high in carbohydrates.
Can I Prevent or Lessen Antidepressant-Related Weight Gain?
Although there is a high correlation between antidepressants and weight gain, there are some steps you can take to mitigate putting on excess pounds while taking antidepressants:
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Fuel your body primarily with nutrient-rich foods such as fresh produce and lean sources of protein. When you do eat carbs, eat ones with more nutritional value such as brown rice, wheat bread, and oatmeal.
- Exercise at least three times a week. Getting regular physical activity will not only help keep your weight down, but will also alleviate your depressive symptoms. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience a significant decrease in their depression, regardless of how many calories they burned or how long the workout lasted.
- Talk to your doctor about trying a different antidepressant. Not every antidepressant medication will interact with your particular body in the same way. While your doctor will need to evaluate a variety of factors before switching medications, such as how effective the medication has been in lessening your depressive symptoms, there are antidepressants that may not cause you to gain as much weight as other kinds.
Antidepressants Are Not the Only Answer
While antidepressants do help some people with depression, there are others who find that antidepressants do not provide relief from their symptoms and/or suffer substantial side effects such as weight gain..
TMS is a safe, noninvasive procedure that has provided many people with depression lasting and significant alleviation of their symptoms without side effects such as weight gain that antidepressants can often cause. TMS has greatly benefited both patients who have found no relief from antidepressant medications, as well as patients who take antidepressants but require a more thorough treatment plan because antidepressants alone have not been sufficiently effective.