advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Why Do Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?

I've been on an antidepressant for a few months and have gained more than 10 pounds. This is making me more depressed. Do all these drugs cause weight gain?

A
Answer (Published 2/11/2011)

As many as 25 percent of people who take certain antidepressant medications report gaining weight, and sometimes quite a bit - as much as 100 pounds. Most antidepressants can cause weight gain, and different drugs affect individuals differently- you may gain weight on one antidepressant but not on another, even if the second is known to cause weight gain in some individuals. Overall, it's believed the effect is more likely to occur after taking medication for six months or longer.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor - If you are interested in supplementing your diet but don't know where to start, take Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. It is free, and provides a personalized vitamin & supplement recommendation based on your health history. Visit today!

According to Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. some of the drugs that may be least likely to lead to weight gain are Effexor (venlafaxine) and Serzone (nafazodone), while Wellbutrin (bupropion) tends to cause weight loss. Conversely, he says that one of the antidepressants that seems most likely to cause weight gain is Paxil, an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). Of the other SSRIs, which include Prozac, Lexapro and Celexa, Zoloft may be least likely to cause weight gain. 

No one knows for sure why antidepressants do this. Some may trigger food cravings, particularly for carbohydrates. The drugs may also affect metabolism. It is also possible that when the antidepressants are effective, you become less depressed and regain your appetite (though this would only apply in cases where loss of appetite is a symptom of depression). And bear in mind that overeating can also be a symptom of depression that can cause weight gain regardless of taking antidepressants.

In the midst of the obesity epidemic, unwanted weight gain due to antidepressant use is rarely mentioned, although it could be a significant contributor since these drugs are now the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in the United States. In 2005 (the last year for which figures are available) some 27 million Americans age six and older were taking them.

How many of those millions of people should be on antidepressants is another concern. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on January 6, 2010 concluded that prescription anti-depressants may provide little benefit for patients with mild or moderate depression although they do help patients with very severe depression. Here are my recommendations for treating mild to moderate depression.

Losing the extra pounds you've gained while taking antidepressants isn't always easy. In some cases, the solution may be as simple as switching drugs. Be sure to consult with your physician and a nutritionist in order to structure an eating and exercise plan that won't interfere with your treatment. I recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, which is the most effective treatment I know for mild to moderate depression. It will also help with weight control by building lean muscle mass and burning calories.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Read more: An Integrative Approach to Depression?

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here