There are a lot of theories about why our country’s obesity rate has skyrocketed in recent years. But few of them have considered these facts.
• Fact One: Depression and obesity are becoming increasingly more common and have a major impact on public health.
• Fact Two: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prescriptions for antidepressant drugs have risen nearly 400% since 1988.
• Fact Three: According to the same CDC, at the same time adult obesity rates have doubled – from 15% to 30% of the population.
• Fact Four: During the same time the use of these drugs in children has dramatically risen – more than 300%! Now close to 8% of all children over 12 years old are on these drugs!
• Fact Five: Childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing.
• Fact Six: One of the known side effects of antidepressant drugs is weight gain.
So my question is this: Is there any connection between these facts? A new report in the journal Translational Psychiatry might have the answer.
The authors start the report with the comment, “Despite the concomitant rise of antidepressant use and of the obesity rates in Western societies, the association between the two, as well as the mechanisms underlying antidepressant-induced weight gain, remain under explored. Clinical findings have suggested that obesity may increase the risk of developing depression and vice versa.” They go on to note how the abnormal interaction between the hypothalamus and the pituitary in the brain with the adrenal glands during depression is the same thing that happens in obesity. They then state that this is especially true when either condition is combined with a high carbohydrate diet.
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They then go on to describe a recent animal study that really brings the connection home. The researchers exposed a group of animals to stress and at the same time gave them a high-fat diet. They also gave some of them antidepressant drugs. All of them ate more and all of them gained weight. But the animals that were taking the antidepressant drugs gained more weight. And here’s the real kicker. Even long after the researchers took the rodents off of the drugs, the animals that were on the drugs continued to gain more weight than their drug-free friends. Somehow the drugs had permanently altered their ability to control their weight. That’s a scary situation!
So could antidepressant drugs be one of the causes of our obesity epidemic? Here’s what the researchers had to say: “On the basis of existing epidemiological, clinical, and preclinical data, we have generated the testable hypothesis that escalating use of antidepressants, resulting in high rates of antidepressant exposure, might be a contributory factor to the obesity epidemic.” And here’s the point.
All this is completely unnecessary. Except for some very extreme cases, there is absolutely no need for an antidepressant medication. In our drug-oriented medical system, it’s a natural fit. But we really don’t need them. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, pain management – all of these conditions can be managed and even cured with a combination of natural remedies. If I listed the names of all the men, women, and children that I have been able to take off these drugs, you would be reading this report for the next week.
I have no problem with the use of a sedative or even an antidepressant medication for one to two months during a time of peak stress. But the long-term use of these medications, especially in the young, is one of the most despicable practices in our medical system. If you’re taking one of these drugs, know this. There’s a reason for your symptoms. Work with a doctor who knows how to use neurofeedback, counseling, lifestyle therapy, and specific amino acids to bring your body back into balance.
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Lee SH1, Paz-Filho G1, et al. Is increased antidepressant exposure a contributory factor to the obesity pandemic? Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Mar 15;6.