Wellness Wednesday: Can Anti-depressants Be Used for Weight Loss?


Breakup binges, PMS cravings, sad snacking and mindless munching. We all tend to snack when we are feeling down. Often, these snacks consist of comforting foods high in carbohydrates. But have you ever wondered why? Depressive eating is linked to a chemical called serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates happiness. In a nutshell, eating carb-rich foods causes the release of more serotonin, which stimulates a feeling of chemical happiness. With time, your brain learns that eating carbs equals feeling better, and the pattern of carb craving intensifies.  Protein consumption does not produce the same effect.


Systematic Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of anti-depressants that also work by modifying the way that your body treats serotonin, effectively keeping it active in your brain and bouncing around, therefore elevating mood.  But are SSRI's the real "magic bullet" against obesity? Early studies seemed to show promising weight loss results when obese, depressed subjects were given SSRIs. However, later longitudinal studies showed that over time, some anti-depressants actually caused weight gain when used on a long-term basis. The relationship between metabolism and anti-depressant therapy remains unclear, but as of now there remains no anti-depressant on the market that is approved for the treatment of obesity. The best weight loss treatment remains a consistent combination of proper nutrition and frequent exercise. For best results, see your friendly neighborhood dietitian.