A weight loss program not only counteracts depressed mood but also reduces risk factors for heart disease and stroke in obese patients, show researchers in a new study.
They found that after a 6-month behavioral weight loss program, depressed patients not only lost 8 percent of their initial weight but also reported significant improvements in their symptoms of depression, as well as reductions in triglycerides, which are a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
"This research is novel because clinically depressed individuals are not usually included in weight loss trials due to concerns that weight loss could worsen their depression," said Dr. Lucy Faulconbridge, lead author of the study.
"These concerns, however, are not based on empirical evidence, and the practice of excluding depressed individuals from clinical weight loss trials means that we are learning nothing about this high-risk population," Faulconbridge added.
The new findings suggest that depressed, obese individuals can indeed lose clinically significant amounts of weight, and that weight loss can actually reduce symptoms of depression.
Faulconbridge and colleagues recruited 51 depressed and non-depressed subjects into the study to follow a supervised weight loss program that included lifestyle modification and meal replacements.
Both depressed and non-depressed subjects lost significant amounts of weight, with depressed individuals losing 8 percent of their initial body weight, compared with 11 percent loss by non-depressed individuals.
After 6 months on the weight loss program, depressed subjects also showed significant improvement of their depressive symptoms, based on a questionnaire.
Additional significant improvements in glucose, insulin and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were observed in both depressed and non-depressed subjects, and depressed individuals showed reduced levels of triglycerides in the blood, which have been linked to risk of heart disease and stroke.
"Depression and obesity are independently associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and so reductions in both body weight and symptoms of depression are likely to improve long-term health outcomes," said Faulconbridge.
The study is to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB).