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Zoloft and Weight Gain : Understanding the Connection and Avoiding the Side Effect

  1. Introduction

    1. Explanation Of Zoloft As An Antidepressant Medication

      Zoloft is an SSRI or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that works as an antidepressant and is approved for treating mental illnesses like depression, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Zoloft is quite effective for depression and the efficacy is quite similar to that of other antidepressants.

    2. Overview Of The Common Question Regarding Zoloft and Weight Gain

      Like every other medication, antidepressants like Zoloft also have side effects. However, these side effects affect some individuals and not all. One of the most important side effects experienced by people taking Zoloft or other SSRIs for a long time is weight gain. Zoloft and Weight Gain : Understanding the Connection and Avoiding the Side Effect

      Antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and mood stabilizers are some of the most common drugs that can potentially increase weight when taken for a longer period.(1) However, we would mention that weight gain or weight loss can also be a part of your mental health problem or any mood disorder, whether you are taking an antidepressant or not. Some individuals lose their appetite and lose weight, while others crave carbohydrates, eat more, be less physically active, and gain weight.

      Zoloft is a well-known antidepressant and as of 2020, more than thirty-eight million prescriptions have been written for Zoloft.(2) Zoloft can cause weight gain, especially when it is taken for long, and this is the reason why many individuals stop taking SSRIs or other antidepressants.

    3. Brief Explanation Of The Purpose Of The Article

      Below, we have talked about the relationship between Zoloft and weight gain and also how to avoid weight gain even while taking the antidepressant. Continue reading to know more about Zoloft and its effect on weight gain.

  2. Understanding the Connection Between Zoloft and Weight Gain

    1. Discussion of the Research On The Relationship Between Zoloft and Weight Gain

      Like other antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors( SSRIs), including Zoloft, Celexa, and some others, can cause some side effects, which include weight gain. Some studies, like those published in the journal “BMJ Open”, mentioned that the more often you use these antidepressants or SSRIs, the more weight you might gain.(3)

      When used for six months to one year, Zoloft or Sertraline can cause a small weight gain that could range from 1% to 1.6% of your initial body weight. So, short-term treatment in adults does not cause substantial weight gain. But, most patients have to take Zoloft for a longer time, and this might lead to a significant growth in their body’s weight.

    2. Explanation Of How Zoloft Can Affect Appetite And Metabolism

      A theory to mention is that antidepressants like sertraline (Zoloft) can stimulate your appetite, which can make you feel hungrier than usual.(4) This indicates that when you use these antidepressants, you might feel less satisfied even after eating food, and this can cause you to eat more food or more amount of total calorie intake. Over time, an increase in calorie intake can result in weight gain, especially if you do not stay physically active.

      One more theory is that Sertraline (Zoloft) and other antidepressants can lead to weight gain by reversing the weight loss that some people usually experience while they suffer from depression. Depression can cause a loss of appetite. If you experienced weight loss due to a reduced appetite due to depression, then after, beginning your treatment with sertraline or any other antidepressant would regain weight or can increase your weight significantly.

    3. Overview Of The Factors That Can Contribute To Weight Gain While Taking Zoloft

      Some factors that can lead to weight gain while taking Zoloft or any other SSRI are:

      • Zoloft increases appetite, especially carbohydrate cravings, which can result in weight gain.
      • It affects Serotonin receptor activity, which can regulate appetite and body weight.
      • If you do not exercise and take Zoloft then you surely will gain weight.
  3. Zoloft and Weight Gain: The Evidence

    1. Presentation Of Studies That Have Found A Link Between Zoloft And Weight Gain

      The use of SSRIs and other antidepressants has long been linked with weight gain and changes in body composition. Research shows that there is a link between the use of sertraline and increased body mass.

      According to a study published in the “Journal of Clinical Medicine” in 2016, where researchers compared various antidepressants to assess their effects on body mass, it has been found that Sertraline was one of those many drugs that have been linked to a moderate range of weight gain when the users use to for two years.(5) Although this study is not appropriate, it still shows that sertraline can contribute to weight gain.

      A study from 2016 looked at weight gain in adults after using antidepressants for consecutive two years and it was found that those who took sertraline has shown as an average gain of 5.9 pounds after two years.(6)

      Another review noted a study from 2000, which looked at individuals who used an SSRI for 32 weeks and it found that sertraline caused a weight gain of 1%. It was also found that 4.2% of people who used Zoloft, gained more than 7% of their body weight.(7)

    2. Explanation Of The Limitations Of These Studies

      It has been long known that antidepressants can result in changes in body weight. However, there is no great evidence that could show why these changes in body weight occur. So, there are still limitations to the studies that say that weight gain can be caused specifically due to the use of Zoloft.

    3. Overview Of Studies That Have Found No Significant Link Between Zoloft And Weight Gain

      Many studies have found that there is no significant link between the use of Zoloft and weight gain. A review of various studies published in 2017 has stated that a small loss in weight could occur with short-term use of SSRIs, which also include Zoloft. This was an 8-week study and individuals who took this medication lost an average of 1.58 pounds.(8) But, in general, short-term use of SSRIs is quite unusual, since patients have to take these SSRIs for at least six months to one year or even longer.

  4. Factors that Can Affect Weight Gain While Taking Zoloft

    1. Discussion Of Individual Differences, Such As Metabolism and Genetics

      Some factors can affect weight gain while taking Zoloft, and these factors can differ from one person to another, such as genetics and metabolism. Genetics can cause obesity directly in the case of certain disorders. In some people using Zoloft or even in general, multiple genes might increase their susceptibility to obesity. However, genes along with behavior both are required for a person to become overweight or gain excess weight.

      Again, the body’s metabolism is also one factor that could contribute to excess weight gain in a person while taking Zoloft. The metabolism of our body determines how many calories we burn. If you have a high metabolism rate then you will burn more calories at rest and also during activity. This means you need to have more calorie intake to maintain your weight.

      However, if you have a lower rate of metabolism then you will burn fewer calories at rest and during activity. This means you should avoid eating too much else you will gain too much weight.

    2. Explanation of Lifestyle Factors, Such As Diet and Physical Activity

      Though some individuals start gaining weight after starting an antidepressant, the antidepressant alone is not always a direct cause of weight gain. Many lifestyle factors can contribute to gain weight while someone is on antidepressant therapy. Some examples include:

      • Inactivity or overeating because of suffering from depression can lead to weight gain.
      • When people suffer from depression they lose weight. However, with an improved mood, their appetite increases, and this could cause weight gain.
      • Generally, adults tend to gain weight as they start aging.
      • Consuming more processed foods and not exercising causes weight gain regardless of taking or not taking medicines.
    3. Overview Of Other Medications and Medical Conditions That Can Contribute To Weight Gain

      Apart from Zoloft or Sertraline some other medications also contribute to weight gain. Some of these medications are medicines like insulin or sulfonylureas for diabetes, medicines for epilepsy like valproate or Divalproex, antidepressants other than Zoloft like clozapine, olanzapine, or quetiapine, antipsychotic medicines, blood pressure-reducing medications like Propranolol and metoprolol, and steroid hormone medicines like prednisone or birth control pills. These medicines can affect the metabolism of your body, which in turn can result in weight gain.

      It is not just the medication that can contribute to weight gain. Certain conditions apart from depression can also result in weight gain. Some of these medical conditions are hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS, Narcolepsy, and congestive heart failure or CHF.

  5. Managing Weight While Taking Zoloft

    1. Overview Of Strategies For Managing Weight While Taking Zoloft

      Sometimes, “Things cannot be changed. We need to take things in a different way to make things look better.” If you are gaining weight while taking Zoloft and want to lose a few extra pounds that have been added to your body weight while taking the medicine, you should take steps to lose your weight. This can be done by taking more conscious choices, especially when it comes to exercise and eating.

      Some of the best strategies for managing weight while taking Zoloft are listed below:

      • Weigh yourself before you begin to start using Zoloft. This could help you keep track of any changes in your weight that might occur.
      • Remain physically active by exercising. However, consult with your doctor if exercise can cause any harm to you while you are on your antidepressant therapy.
      • Weigh yourself weekly to track the changes in your weight. See if there is a significant change trend upwards or downwards after a week or month.
    2. Explanation Of The Importance Of Healthy Eating Habits and Physical Activity

      Sertraline (Zoloft) can affect your appetite and can cause you to feel less satisfied with the food than usual. You should try to maintain your normal eating habits, like meal timing, portion sizes, food choices, and so on. Taking the medication can make you feel hungrier and eat more. So, instead of having three huge or heavy meals, break your food smaller and have more frequent meals. In addition to this, you should try to add more nutritious and low-calorie-rich foods, like nonstarchy vegetables. Go for vegetable salads and soups.

      Apart from this, try to remain physically active. Talk to your doctor, and consult with an experienced fitness trainer about your condition and the level of exercise that you need to do.

      Accordingly, a proper exercise plan can be prepared for you to follow.

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention( CDC), at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week along with two strength-training sessions are required for adults.(9) You can do this by walking for 30 minutes(five days a week) and adding any two strength-training workouts.

    3. Discussion of The Importance Of Monitoring Weight and Seeking Medical Help For Any Concerns

      One of the most important things to consider while taking Zoloft or any other antidepressant is to monitor your weight quite often and accordingly seek medical help in case of any concern. If you start gaining a massive amount of weight after starting the medication, seek medical advice from your doctor. Your doctor may recommend you change your level of physical activity, recommend you to eat healthier, or even make changes in your dosages or might prescribe some alternative antidepressant.

      Sometimes, some people might experience weight loss after taking the medicine. If you notice a significant amount of weight loss after using Zoloft or sertraline, you should talk to your doctor and seek their advice.

  6. Conclusion

Though some individuals experience weight gain after starting Zoloft or any other antidepressant, the medication is not only the direct cause, since there are other factors like overeating, eating more processed foods, and not exercising, that can you to gain weight.

In case you start gaining weight after beginning your antidepressant, discuss the problem with your doctor and consider managing your weight by other means, such as exercising and eating healthier. You can also consult with your doctor if you can adjust the dosage or switch your medication if it helps without affecting your treatment process. However, do not stop taking the medicine by yourself without talking to your doctor.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 21, 2023

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