Weight loss programs ease depression

March 8, 2011 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Weight loss programs ease depression

New study findings are reporting that obese people who participate in weight loss programs experience relief from depressive symptoms, regardless of how much weight they've lost.

To investigate, researchers reviewed 31 studies involving nearly 8,000 people that had explored the relationship between weight loss in a structured program and changes in symptoms of depression.

The researchers of the original studies scored depressive symptoms before and after the weight-loss program and noted how much weight participants lost during the program.

In each of the studies, patients were randomly assigned to different kinds of weight loss programs, including diet-only or exercise-only programs or programs based around counseling and behavioral change. Researchers focused on symptoms related to depression and mood rather than tracking who had been diagnosed with depression since most studies did not include people suffering from clinical depression.

Researchers found that, as a whole, people in almost every kind of weight loss program not based on medication saw improvements in their mood.

Lifestyle modification programs, such as those based on counseling on diet and exercise, had the most positive effect, and programs including workouts also relieved symptoms of depression. Treatment with weight loss medication, however, had no impact on participants' mood.

Surprisingly how much weight each person lost, or didn't lose, was not linked with their changes in mood during the weight loss program.

Obesity is a known risk factor for depression. Previous research suggests that by losing even a small percentage of body weight, heavy people can improve their physical and mental health, even if they remain obese.  

While the authors of the study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, don't want to imply that weight loss is a substitute for treatment of clinical depression, they do point out that this study indicates there may be some relief for people who have some symptoms of depression and are overweight or obese.

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