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Are Mood Disorders and Obesity Related? A Review for the Mental Health Professional

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65(5):634-651

Objective: We reviewed evidence regarding a possible relationship between mood disorders and obesity to better inform mental health professionals about their overlap.

Method: We performed a MEDLINE search of the English-language literature for the years 1966-2003 using the following terms: obesity, overweight, abdominal, central, metabolic syndrome, depression, mania, bipolar disorder, binge eating, morbidity, mortality, cardiovascular, diabetes, cortisol, hypertriglyceridemia, sympathetic, family history, stimulant, sibutramine, antiobesity, antidepressant, topiramate, and zonisamide. We evaluated studies of obesity (and related conditions) in persons with mood disorders and of mood disorders in persons with obesity. We also compared studies of obesity and mood disorders regarding phenomenology, comorbidity, family history, biology, and pharmacologic treatment response.

Results: The most rigorous clinical studies suggest that (1) children and adolescents with major depressive disorder may be at increased risk for developing overweight; (2) patients with bipolar disorder may have elevated rates of overweight, obesity, and abdominal obesity; and (3) obese persons seeking weight-loss treatment may have elevated rates of depressive and bipolar disorders. The most rigorous community studies suggest that (1) depression with atypical symptoms in females is significantly more likely to be associated with overweight than depression with typical symptoms; (2) obesity is associated with major depressive disorder in females; and (3) abdominal obesity may be associated with depressive symptoms in females and males; but (4) most overweight and obese persons in the community do not have mood disorders. Studies of phenomenology, comorbidity, family history, biology, and pharmacologic treatment response of mood disorders and obesity show that both conditions share many similarities along all of these indices.

Conclusion: Although the overlap between mood disorders and obesity may be coincidental, it suggests the two conditions may be related. Clinical and theoretical implications of this overlap are discussed, and further research is called for.