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Can J Psychiatry. 2001 Nov;46(9):829-34.

Antipsychotic drugs and obesity: is prolactin involved?

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Los Andes University Medical School, Mérida, Venezuela.



To correlate the anthropometric indexes (Body Mass Index [BMI] and Waist-Hip ratio [WHR]) with the serum prolactin levels in a heterogeneous population of patients treated with typical antipsychotic (AP) drugs.


We evaluated BMI, WHR, and fasting serum prolactin of inpatients (n = 105) and outpatients (n = 122) treated with APs, in outpatients receiving other psychotropic drugs (OPDs) (n = 77), and in drug-free subjects (n = 33). Outpatients had free access to food, whereas the inpatient sample comprised people with a monotonous diet of approximately 2000 Kcal daily.


Prolactin correlated positively with the BMI in the whole group of AP-treated outpatient men (P = 0.03) and with the WHR in AP-treated inpatient men (P = 0.053). Regarding treatment duration, prolactin and BMI correlated positively in men consecutively treated for more than 1 year (P = 0.023). By contrast, a trend toward a negative correlation between prolactin and BMI was observed in AP-treated outpatient women (P = 0.08). No significant correlation, or even a trend, was observed in the other groups.


Prolactin may be involved in AP-induced weight gain, particularly in men. Future studies should characterize the period of maximal prolactin impact on body weight during AP treatment. Specific populations particularly sensitive to hyperprolactinemia might be identified as well. The negative correlation between prolactin and BMI detected in AP-treated women resembles the dampened prolactin response observed in severe primary obesity.

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