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Original Research

Interventions for Weight Gain in Adults Treated With Novel Antipsychotics

Ralph Aquila, MD, and Marianne Emanuel, RN

Published: February 1, 2000

Article Abstract

Background: Weight gain is a significant side effect associated with typical and atypical antipsychotic agents. It has the potential to add to the increased morbidity and mortality associated with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Because the newer antipsychotic medications have proved to be superior to traditional agents in controlling the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, it is additionally critical to address the relationship of these newer agents to weight gain.

Method: Prior to the availability of novel antipsychotic medication, we looked at a group of 17 residents, of whom 71% had significant weight gain on treatment with traditional antipsychotic medications between 1991 and 1994. This prompted our interest in weight gain, especially after the introduction of novel antipsychotic medications, and our decision to look closely at their diets and help them make changes that would minimize their weight gain. We monitored the effect of a comprehensive primary intervention strategy on controlling obesity in a retrospective study of 32 patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorders. All patients were residents in an adult care facility for formerly homeless persons with serious mental illness. Intervention consisted of complete medical and psychiatric care; switch to a patient-optimal atypical drug; low-calorie, monitored diet; nutritional education; and supportive care.

Results: There was no significant change in mean body weight at 12 and 18 months after initiation of intervention. Weight gain was observed in only 30% of study patients after the intervention as opposed to 71% at the start of the study. In general, as the negative symptoms of schizophrenia improved, patients were found to become more receptive to education and to become proactive in their health care. The lack of weight gain was consistently seen with all 3 agents tested–clozapine, olanzapine, and risperidone.

Conclusion: A patient’s diet appears to be a better predictor of weight gain than the choice of novel antipsychotic medication. Clinicians might prescribe nutritional and lifestyle changes alongside medication with weight gain potential.

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