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Reversal of Antipsychotic-Associated Weight Gain

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64(8):907-912

Background: Given growing concern about weight gain associated with treatment with antipsychotic agents, we performed a retrospective chart review of patients who reversed weight gain associated with antipsychotic treatment to determine the prevalence of reversal and both the course and methods used.

Method: Prevalence of weight gain reversal was determined by surveying clinicians. Of 53 patients who gained >= 20 lb (9 kg) during antipsychotic treatment, an initial sample of 12 patients (23%) who subsequently lost >= 10 lb (5 kg) was identified. These 12 patients were combined with additional patients, identified by the authors, who met the same criteria for reversal of antipsychotic-associated weight gain to form a total sample of 35 patients. Course and methods of weight loss were determined by reviewing these patients' charts. Information about interventions and both antipsychotic and other medications was collected.

Results: At the point of maximum weight gain, the total sample of 35 patients had gained a mean of 29.36 kg (64.73 lb) over a mean of 33 months. At the point of greatest weight loss (56 months), these patients were a mean of 10.86 kg (23.94 lb) over their baseline weight. The most recent weight for patients (63 months) indicated they were 14.81 kg (32.65 lb) over baseline. The most frequent weight loss interventions were regular dietician visits (42.9% [N = 15]), self-directed diet (28.6% [N = 10]), and weight loss as a treatment goal (25.7% [N = 9]). The least frequent interventions were no intervention (5.7% [N = 2]), psychiatrist addressing weight loss (5.7% [N = 2]), and surgery (2.9% [N = 1]). No significant change in medications prescribed was found.

Conclusion: Some patients who gain weight while taking antipsychotic medications are able to stop gaining and lose weight over time, largely through behavioral interventions. While patients' weight fluctuated, this group sustained a loss of approximately half their initial gain. Dietary interventions appear promising and should be explored further to prevent and reverse weight gain.