These popular antidepressants cause the most weight gain: Harvard research

Lexapro, Paxil and Cymbalta carry a higher risk of packing on the pounds than Zoloft, while Wellbutrin users are less likely to gain weight, according to a new study of eight popular antidepressants.

Lexapro, Paxil and Cymbalta carry a higher risk of packing on the pounds than Zoloft, while Wellbutrin users are less likely to gain weight, according to a new study of eight popular antidepressants.

Lexapro, Paxil and Cymbalta carry a higher risk of packing on the pounds than Zoloft, while Wellbutrin users are less likely to gain weight, according to a new study of eight popular antidepressants.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute (HPHCI) researchers analyzed the weight of more than 183,000 adult users of antidepressants six months, one year and two years after they started taking the drugs.

At six months of use, users of Lexapro, Paxil and Cymbalta were 10% to 15% more likely to gain at least 5% of their starting weight than users of Zoloft, the study found.  PRNAt six months of use, users of Lexapro, Paxil and Cymbalta were 10% to 15% more likely to gain at least 5% of their starting weight than users of Zoloft, the study found.  PRN

At six months of use, users of Lexapro, Paxil and Cymbalta were 10% to 15% more likely to gain at least 5% of their starting weight than users of Zoloft, the study found. PRN

Data from Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Wellbutrin (bupropion), Cymbalta (duloxetine), and Effexor (venlafaxine) were compared with Zoloft (sertraline), which is the most described. antidepressant in the US.

At six months, users of Lexapro, Paxil, and Cymbalta were 10% to 15% more likely to gain at least 5% of their starting weight than Zoloft users.

Prozac was not associated with a change in weight over six months, while Wellbutrin users were 15% less likely to experience a 5% weight gain. Wellbutrin continued to be associated with less weight gain at one and two years.

Wellbutrin was associated with the least weight gain at six months, one and two years.  Getty ImagesWellbutrin was associated with the least weight gain at six months, one and two years.  Getty Images

Wellbutrin was associated with the least weight gain at six months, one and two years. Getty Images

The findings were published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers evaluated Wellbutrins ability to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which improve arousal and alertness.

The drug, used to treat depression and seasonal affective disorder and to help people quit smoking, has also been shown to stimulate the central melanocortin system, which regulates appetite, energy balance and body weight.

The study results come amid increasing use of antidepressants, particularly among young adults and teenagers.

One study found that about 14% of American adults take an antidepressant. The HPHCI researchers noted that people often stop using the drug if they experience weight gain.

This study provides important real-world evidence about the amount of weight gain to be expected after starting some of the most common antidepressants, said lead author Joshua Petimar, an assistant professor of folk medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Clinicians and patients can use this information, among other factors, to help make the right choice for them, he added.

Greater risk of at least 5% weight gain in six months of use

  • Lexapro

  • Paxil

  • Cymbalta

  • Effexor

  • Celexa

  • Zoloft (baseline)

  • Prozac

  • Wellbutrin

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