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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 May;17(5):1009-16. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.647. Epub 2009 Feb 5.

Changes in symptoms of depression with weight loss: results of a randomized trial.

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Department of Psychiatry, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Recent studies of rimonabant have re-awakened interest in the possible adverse psychiatric effects of weight loss, as well as of weight loss medications. This study examined changes in symptoms of depression in 194 obese participants (age = 43.7 +/- 10.2 years; BMI = 37.6 +/- 4.1 kg/m(2)) in a 1-year randomized trial of lifestyle modification and medication. Participants were assigned to (i) sibutramine alone; (ii) lifestyle modification alone; (iii) sibutramine plus lifestyle modification (i.e., combined therapy); or (iv) sibutramine plus brief therapy. Participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) at baseline and weeks 6, 10, 18, 26, 40, and 52. At 1 year, participants in combined therapy lost the most weight and those in sibutramine alone the least (12.1 +/- 8.8% vs. 5.5 +/- 6.5%; P < 0.01). Mean BDI-II scores across all participants declined from 8.1 +/- 6.9 to 6.2 +/- 7.7 at 1 year (P < 0.001), with no significant differences among groups. Despite this favorable change, 13.9% of participants (across the four groups) reported potentially discernible increases (>or= 5 points on the BDI-II) in symptoms of depression at week 52. They lost significantly less weight than participants in the rest of the sample (5.4 +/- 7.8% vs. 9.0 +/- 7.8%, respectively; P < 0.03). The baseline prevalence of suicidal ideation was 3.6%. Seven new cases of suicidal ideation were observed during the year, with three in lifestyle modification alone. Further research is needed to identify characteristics of obese patients at risk of negative mood changes (and suicidal ideation) in response to behavioral and pharmacologic therapies.

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