By JAMIE DUCHARME
May 23, 2018
A new study published in The BMJ has found that antidepressant use may be associated with weight gain over time.
“Patients who were normal weight were more likely to transition to overweight, and overweight patients were more likely to transition to obesity if they were treated with antidepressants,” said study co-author Rafael Gafoor, a primary care and public health researcher at King’s College London, in an email to TIME.
…Those who were prescribed antidepressants during the first year of the study were 21% more likely to have gained at least 5% of their starting body weight over the 10 years of follow-up, compared to people not taking the drugs.
The risk of weight gain appeared to be greatest in the second and third years of treatment and remained elevated for six years after beginning a course of treatment. “[It] may take some time for weight gain to be noticeable and recorded into medical records,” Gafoor says.
Some drugs were more strongly associated with weight gain than others, the study found. People taking mirtazapine (or Remeron), which is now rarely prescribed, had a 50% higher risk of gaining at least 5% of their body weight, compared to people who were not taking antidepressants. Citalopram (a commonly prescribed drug sold under the brand name Celexa) was associated with a roughly 26% higher risk of the same.
…The study comes with many caveats. To be included, people had to have at least three body mass index measurements on record.
….It’s also possible that depressive symptoms, such as increased appetite and decreased motivation to exercise, were at least partially to blame for weight gain, independent of antidepressant use. The current study, however, separately accounted for depression diagnoses, and previous smaller, short-term studieshave also linked antidepressants themselves to weight gain.