A Review of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Obesity: Exploring the Link



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Objective: The incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obesity are on the rise, and evidence continues to support the observation that individuals who have symptoms of PTSD are more likely to develop obesity in their lifetime. The incidence of obesity in individuals with PTSD, including war veterans, women, and children exposed to trauma, is not solely attributable to psychotropic medications, but actual pathophysiologic mechanisms have not been fully delineated. Additionally, there are no studies to date demonstrating that obese individuals are predisposed to developing PTSD compared to the general population. This review explores the pathogenic pathways common to both PTSD and obesity, which include inflammation, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, cellular structures, and neuroendocrine activation.

Data Sources and Synthesis: A PubMed search for the years 2000–2015 with the keywords PTSD and obesity was performed. There were no language restrictions.

Results: More research is needed in human subjects to understand the pathogenic pathways common to both PTSD and obesity and to further clarify the direction of identified associations. Ideally, in the future, clinical interventions targeting these pathways may be able to modify the course of PTSD and obesity. The outcome of studies investigating the utility of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers in the treatment of PTSD symptoms will be relevant to control both PTSD and obesity. Importantly, outcomes assessing inflammation, obesity, and cardiac function in the same subjects also should be determined.

Conclusion: Research is needed to reveal the multidimensional and intricate relationship between PTSD and obesity. The implications of this research would be essential for treatment, prevention, and potential public health reforms.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2016;18(1):doi:10.4088/PCC.15r01848