Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Healthy Obesity: Losing Weight Won’t Make You Happy

sharma-obesity-depressionThere is ample evidence for improvements in mood and other aspects of mental health with weight loss in people with excess weight, who have these problems to begin with.

But whether or not weight loss in otherwise healthy people living with obesity is associated with any such benefits remains unknown.

This question in now addressed by Sarah Jackson and colleagues from the UK in a paper published in PLOS | ONE.

The researchers examine data from 1,979 overweight and obese adults, free of long-standing illness or clinical depression at baseline, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Participants were grouped according to four-year weight change into those losing ≥5% weight, those gaining ≥5%, and those whose weight was stable within 5%.

The proportion of participants with depressed mood increased by almost 300% in the group that lost weight (about 15% of participants) compared to a rather modest 85% and 62% increase in mood problems in the than weight stable or weight gain groups, respectively.

Compared to the weight stable group, the weight loss group was almost 2 times as likely to report mood problems.

Similarly, individuals in the weight loss group were also more likely to report lower wellbeing.

All effects persisted in analyses controlling for demographic variables, weight loss intention, and baseline characteristics and despite adjusting for illness and life stress during the weight loss period.

Given the longitudinal nature of this study, it is impossible to determine causal relationships in these observations but the findings do suggest that the issue of psychological harm in otherwise healthy individuals undergoing weight loss may warrant closer study.

For the event that there is indeed a causal relationship between weight loss and adverse pychological outcomes, the authors have the following explanation to offer:

The poor long-term maintenance of weight loss is notorious, and in itself could be interpreted as demonstrating that the personal costs of losing weight exceed the benefits. Resisting food in environments that offer abundant eating opportunities requires sustained self-control, and given that self-control appears to be a limited resource, other areas of life may suffer as a consequence. Loss of fat stores may also initiate signals for replenishment of adipocytes, thereby stimulating hunger and appetite and making weight control progressively more difficult. These observations suggest that weight loss is a significant psychobiological challenge, and as such, could affect psychological wellbeing.”

On the other hand, weight loss could also result from adverse changes in mood:

Evidence from the clinical literature is suggestive of a causal relationship in this direction, with major depressive disorder often associated with significant weight loss, and treatment with antidepressant medication leading to weight gain. Population studies have also demonstrated longitudinal associations between depressive symptoms and weight loss. Depressed mood may cause weight loss directly or indirectly through changes in appetite or level of physical activity.”

Thirdly, these correlational findings may be entirely unrelated to each other.

Which ever the true relationship, these findings should perhaps caution us against simply advising all overweight or obese people, irrespective of whether or not they actually have weight-related health issues (or are otherwise unhappy with their weight), to try losing some weight.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgJackson SE, Steptoe A, Beeken RJ, Kivimaki M, & Wardle J (2014). Psychological Changes following Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Prospective Cohort Study. PloS one, 9 (8) PMID: 25098417

 

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Evidence for Benefit of Psychological Intervention Before Bariatric Surgery

sharma-obesity-psychotheralyCurrent bariatric surgery guidelines recommend psychological assessment prior to undergoing bariatric surgery. In some centres, this assessment is less than rigorous and, in cases where patients have been denied surgery because of psychological findings, providers have been accused of bias and discrimination.

Nevertheless, most people working in the field, tend to agree that, when present, emotional drivers of weight gain are best dealt with before rather than after surgery.

Now, a randomised controlled trial by Hege Gade and colleagues from Tromsø, Norway, published in The Journal of Obesity, shows the benefit of 10 weeks or cognitive behavioural intervention in patients seeking bariatric surgery, who present with dysfunctional eating behaviours.

A total of 98 (70% females) patients with a mean age of 43 years and BMI of 43.5 kg/m2 were randomly assigned to 10 weeks of weekly CBT-group therapy or usual nutritional support and education (controls).

The CBT sessions were included learning to recognize triggers of dysfunctional eating, identifying associated cognitions and emotions, initiating plans for change, and home-work tasks between sessions.

Compared the controls, the CBT-group showed a remarkable improvement in eating behaviours as well as improvements in depression and anxiety scores at the end of the intervention. They also experienced some modest weight loss (~3 kg).

While these benefits speak for the effectiveness of CBT, the study does not provide any outcome data post-surgery to show that these patients do better after surgery than the controls – that, I believe, remains to be shown.

Nevertheless, common sense suggests that dysfunctional (emotional) eating (when present) is perhaps best dealt with prior to surgery than after the procedure.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

 

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Molecular Biology of Food And Mood

sharma-obesity-brainThe neuroendocrine systems that control ingestive behaviour are intimately linked to the parts of the brain that control mood.

Thus, it is increasingly evident that factors that affect energy homeostasis (diet and exercise) can have profound effects on mood while changes in mood can have significant effects on appetite and energy homeostasis.

But this relationship is far from straightforward – rather, it appears to be rather complex.

Readers interested in an overview of how these two systems interact in the brain may find a recent review by Chen Liu from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, published in Cell Metabolism of interest.

The authors review our current understanding of how mood and food are linked with particular attention to appetite, ingestive behaviour and energy homeostasis.

The article also touches on the effects of pharmacological and surgical treatments for obesity on mood.

Clearly clinicians need to be aware of the close links between these systems and draw on our current understanding of both in their counselling of patients presenting with weight gain and/or depression.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgLiu C, Lee S, & Elmquist JK (2014). Circuits Controlling Energy Balance and Mood: Inherently Intertwined or Just Complicated Intersections? Cell metabolism, 19 (6), 902-909 PMID: 24630814

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Is Weight Gain Typical in Atypical Depression?

sharma-obesity-depressionDepression or major depressive disorder (MDD) is not only one of the most common psychiatric problems, it also comes in many flavours.

While melancholic or “typical” depression is characterized by a loss of pleasure in most or all activities (anhedonia), a failure of reactivity to pleasurable stimuli, psychomotor retardation and a strong sense of guilt, “atypical” depression is characterized by mood reactivity (paradoxical anhedonia), excessive sleep or sleepiness (hypersomnia), a sensation of heaviness in limbs, and significant social impairment as a consequence of hypersensitivity to perceived interpersonal rejection.

An important further distinction is that “typical” depression is commonly associated with loss of appetite and weight loss, whereas “atypical” depression typically involves increased appetite (comfort eating), often with significant weight gain.

Now a study by Aurélie Lasserre and colleagues from Switzerland, published in JAMA Psychiatry, looks at the risk for weight gain in patients with different forms of depression.

The prospective population-based cohort study, included 3054 randomly selected residents of the City of Lausanne (mean age, 49.7 years; 53.1% were women) with 5.5 years of follow-up.

Depression subtypes according to the DSM-IV, as well as sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle (alcohol and tobacco use and physical activity), and medication, were elicited using the semistructured diagnostic interviews.

As expected, only participants with the “atypical” subtype of MDD at baseline had a higher increase in adiposity and were about 3.75 times more likely to have developed obesity during follow-up than participants without MDD.

This association remained robust even after adjustment for a wide range of confounders.

Thus, as the authors note,

The atypical subtype of MDD is a strong predictor of obesity. This emphasizes the need to identify individuals with this subtype of MDD in both clinical and research settings. Therapeutic measures to diminish the consequences of increased appetite during depressive episodes with atypical features are advocated.

Although we should be wary of those antidepressants that can cause weight gain, an early diagnosis and treatment of atypical depression may well prevent further weight gain and perhaps facilitate weight loss in patients with atypical depression.

Clearly, screening for “atypical” depression must be an essential part of obesity assessment and management.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgLasserre AM, Glaus J, Vandeleur CL, Marques-Vidal P, Vaucher J, Bastardot F, Waeber G, Vollenweider P, & Preisig M (2014). Depression With Atypical Features and Increase in Obesity, Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Fat Mass: A Prospective, Population-Based Study. JAMA psychiatry PMID: 24898270

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Social Anxiety As A Deterrent To Physical Activity

sharma-obesity-distored-body-image1Social anxiety, defined as persistent fears of one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to others and expects to be scrutinized, has been reported in as many as one in ten individuals with overweight or obesity.

Now, a paper by Abbas Abdollahi and Mansor Abu Talib, published in Psychology, Health and Medicine, examines the relationship between social anxiety and sedentary behaviour in this population.

The researchers surveyed 207 overweight and obese students (measured heights and weights) using a number of validated instruments to assess social anxiety, sedentariness and body esteem.

As one might expect, social anxiety was associated with lower body esteem and higher sedentary behaviour.

The key mediator in this relationship was body dissatisfaction and poor body esteem.

Thus,

“…obese individuals with poor body esteem are more likely to report social anxiety, because they are concerned about negative evaluation by others; therefore, obese individuals indicate avoidance behaviour, which, ultimately, leads to social anxiety.”

The implications of these findings are obvious,

“First, when assessing the social anxiety in individuals, it is important to account for the presence of sedentary behaviour in addition to other psychological risk factors. Second, reducing sedentary behaviour can alter the effect of social anxiety factors; this may be a significant factor to incorporate into social anxiety treatment programmes. Reducing social anxiety in individuals is a main part of any clinical intervention. Third, the findings of the current study suggest that health professionals should encourage obese individuals with social anxiety to reassure their value and abilities regardless of their weight or body shape, and assist them to recognize that everybody is unique and that differences between individuals are valuable.”

This will take more than simply telling people with overweight to be more active. It will certainly require targeted and professional help to overcome body dissatisfaction and low self esteem.

Or, even better, we need to do all we can to help people gain more confidence and be accepting about their own bodies in the first place.

@DrSharma
Vancouver, BC

ResearchBlogging.orgAbdollahi A, & Talib MA (2014). Sedentary behaviour and social anxiety in obese individuals: the mediating role of body esteem. Psychology, health & medicine, 1-5 PMID: 24922119

 

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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