Weight Loss Programs May Boost Mood in Obese People

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Obese people who participate in a weight loss program based on exercise and lifestyle changes end up less depressed, according to a new review.

But how many pounds they actually shed didn't seem to matter, and it's not clear that weight loss itself played a role, one expert said.

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for many medical conditions, including depression. Previous research has suggested that by losing even a small percentage of their body weight, heavy people can improve their physical and mental health, even if they remain obese.

However, some weight loss medications have been linked to higher rates of depression and suicidal behavior. To complicate things even further, people on antidepressants often gain weight.

The authors of the new report "don't want to imply that weight loss is a substitute for treatment of clinically significant depression," said Dr. Anthony Fabricatore, whose findings appear in the International Journal of Obesity.

"But for people who have some symptoms of depression and are overweight (or) obese, there's some relief that comes with weight loss," he added. Fabricatore, then at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, now works for the diet and weight loss company Nutrisystem.

The researchers, all of whom have ties to drugmakers, reviewed a collection of 31 previous studies that had explored the relationship between weight loss in a structured program and changes in symptoms of depression.

In each of the studies, obese patients were randomly assigned to different kinds of weight loss programs, including diet-only or exercise-only programs or programs based around counseling and behavioral change.

Some patients took medications to boost weight loss, and others, used for comparison, got no treatment whatsoever. A total of almost 8,000 people were part of the studies.

The researchers on those original studies scored depressive symptoms before and after the weight-loss program, and noted how much weight participants lost during the program.

Because most weight loss studies do not include people suffering from clinical depression, Fabricatore and his colleagues focused on symptoms related to depression and mood, rather than tracking who had been diagnosed with clinical depression. …