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Depression Health Center

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Weight Gain From Antidepressants Is Minimal: Study

There's not much difference in the amount gained between the various drugs, researchers say


Roughly 3,400 additional patients were also included in the analysis, although none had been diagnosed with depression. All had been treated for other issues with a range of non-antidepressant medications, including asthma and anti-obesity prescriptions.

Weight fluctuation among all the patients was followed for one year.

Perlis and colleagues found that being younger and/or male increased the risk for gaining weight, as did starting treatment with a relatively low body mass index (BMI, a measurement based on weight and height).

When honing in on specific antidepressants, the researchers found that Celexa seemed to promote more weight gain than other popular antidepressants. Celexa is from a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which also includes Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Sensoval, Elavil (which is no longer available in the United States), and Wellbutrin all prompted "significantly" less weight gain than Celexa, the research showed.

However, Perlis stressed that the range in weight gain between the various drugs was very narrow, with very little practical difference seen in the actual pounds gained by patients on different meds.

"Really, these antidepressants are very similar in their potential to cause a small amount of weight gain," he said. "We're talking, on average, of a gain of about one to two pounds over the course of a year. So it's not huge amounts. And I really don't think that our findings would automatically push me to choose one medication over another based on their impact on weight gain. Not unless a patient was very, very concerned about it."

And, Perlis added, antidepressants can at times actually promote weight loss, particularly among depressed patients who may have gained some weight prior to beginning treatment.

"So, rather than being scared off because they've gained weight, I would hope people will be reassured that treatment might actually help in that department," he noted. "The aim is to help people be more comfortable getting treatment for these very treatable illnesses, whether with medications or talk therapy or both."

Also touching on the topic of weight gain, another JAMA Psychiatry study looked at how a subgroup of depression patients appear to be particularly vulnerable to weight gain as a result of the condition itself, rather than its pharmaceutical treatment.

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