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Study: Depression, Anxiety Linked To Weight Gain In Women

Study: Depression, Anxiety Linked To Weight Gain In WomenYoung women who have a history of anxiety disorders or depression may be at a greater risk of becoming obese, according to a study by Friedman School student Sarah Anderson and Tufts School of Medicine assistant professor Aviva Must.

Boston [03.27.06] Tufts experts have discovered that young women with a history of depression or anxiety disorders have a greater chance of becoming overweight or obese. The study, conducted by Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy doctoral student Sarah Anderson and Tufts School of Medicine associate professor Aviva Must, was published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

“In a study that followed 820 men and women from childhood through young adulthood, investigators found that women with a history of either depression or anxiety -- or, in many cases, both -- tended to gain more weight over time,” Reuters Health reported.

According to the study, women who developed depression at a younger age had higher weights as adults. In terms of anxiety disorders, the researchers found, women with anxiety disorders were heavier, by about six to 12 pounds on average, regardless of how old they were when they were diagnosed.

Previous studies have shown that weight gain in women with depression could be tied to the fact that some respond to the disorder by overeating, Anderson told Reuters Health.

She further explained to the news organization that there is a possibility that depressed women “self-medicate” with food.

“[Anderson said] some of the same chemical messengers in the body, such as serotonin, are involved in both mood regulation and appetite,” Reuters Health reported. “Depression is marked by lowered serotonin levels, whereas food -- particularly carbohydrates -- can temporarily boost those levels.”

In terms of weight gain, depression and anxiety disorders have a different impact on women than they do on men, Anderson and Must determined. While women gained weight, men didn’t.

“One explanation for the gender difference, according to Anderson, could be the fact that women are more likely than men to have depression symptoms that can contribute to weight gain -- including increased appetite and excessive sleeping,” according to Reuters Health.

While further research in this area is still necessary, according to Anderson and Must, they may have identified a key group – young women with a history of anxiety disorders or depression – to target in the fight against obesity, Reuters Health reported.

“If the current findings are correct, the researchers conclude, treating such women could become an important part of the obesity battle,” according to Reuters Health.


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