Antidepressant Identified as Helping Control Weight

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The researchers at Group Health have discovered that bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) is the only antidepressant on the market which tends to be linked to long-term modest weight loss. Previously, the team showed a direct connection between depression and body weight. People who are suffering from depression are more likely to be overweight, and vice versa.

These same researchers also found that most antidepressant medications have directly contributed to weight gain.

The Study

Past research on antidepressants and weight changes was limited to one year or less. However, many people in the United States take antidepressants, the most commonly prescribed drug in the country. Most people take these medications for one year or more.

In the new study, the team followed 5,000 people who took antidepressants for two or more years. The Journal of Clinical Medicine published the study entitled, “Long-Term Weight Changes after Initiating Second-Generation Antidepressants.”

The lead author of the study, Dr. David Arterburn, MD, MPH, stated, “Our study suggests that bupropion is the best initial choice of antidepressant for the vast majority of Americans who have depression and are overweight or obese.” However, in some instances an overweight or obese patient has reasons why bupropion is not the medication for them, such as a history of seizure disorders, and it would be more beneficial for them to elect a different treatment option.

Findings of the Study

Dr. Arterburn stated, “We found that bupropion is the only antidepressant that tends to be linked to weight loss over two years. All other antidepressants are linked to varying degrees of weight gain.”

After two years on the medication, nonsmokers lost an average of 2.4 pounds when compared with people gaining 4.6 pounds while on fluoxetine (Prozac). Those who wound up taking bupropion wound up weighing 7 pounds less than those on fluoxetine.
Not surprisingly, the difference wasn’t witnessed in people who smoked tobacco products. Bupropion is often prescribed to help people stop smoking. So those who smoke and take bupropion are likely to try quitting, while coping with the weight gain that often comes with smoking cessation.

How to Know Which Antidepressant to Try

Dr. Arterburn’s co-author Gregory Simpson said, “A large body of evidence indicates no difference in how effectively the newer antidepressants improve people’s moods. So it makes sense for doctors and patients to choose antidepressants on the basis of their side effects, costs and patients’ preferences and now, on whether the patients are overweight or obese.”

Bupropion should be thought of as a first-line medication of choice for individuals who are overweight or obese, Dr. Simon stated. However, patients should consult with their personal physician to find out which medication is right for them, before making any firm changes, including stopping, starting or switching antidepressants.


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