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Which Comes First: Depression or Weight Gain?

Posted Jun 03 2013 5:45am

Weight loss is probably now America’s pastime, surpassing baseball. Studies have suggested that if you are depressed and overweight, losing weight may help with depression. Other studies found that behavioral weight loss programs led to improvement in depression even without any weight loss. Here’s an article by a family physician who argues that undergoing a weight loss program in the midst of clinical depression is like running an entire marathon with a sprained ankle. 

While there may be some value in Dr. Freedhoff’s answer, I have a better suggestion: Get tested and treated for possible obstructive sleep apnea. There are now numerous studies that suggest that obstructive sleep apnea can predispose to both depression and weight gain. Having narrowed jaws and dental crowding prevents proper breathing at night while sleeping. Poor sleep in general has been found to lead to weight gain, which can narrow the throat even further. Not getting good sleep (especially deep sleep) can definitely cause symptoms of anxiety or depression. The rate of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea is so high in this country (~80%) that it should be a mandatory test for everyone, just like testing for high cholesterol or high blood pressure. 

I realize that some of you scientists are going to say that association does not imply causality. Show me the studies. Where’s the proof? 

Here’s my answer: For the next one year, sleep one hour less every night. Document your mood status and weight at the start and at the end of the year. Please post back the results of your experiment.


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