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Antidepressant Use Linked to Diabetes Mellitus

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By David Liu, PHD

Thursday Dec 6, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Don't take antidepressant medications when it is not absolutely necessary as a study in Journal of Diabetes has again found evidence to suggest that taking these prescription drugs may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The study led by U. Sambamoorthi at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia and colleagues shows that during a three-year follow-up, men and women using antidepressant medications were 50% more likely to develop diabetes mellitus, compared with those who did not use antidepressants.

For the study researchers analyzed data on depression and antidepressant use from merged survey and claims from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey from 1999 to 2005.  Incidence was extracted for a period of three years.

Overall, incident diabetes rate was 4.8 percent among those who did not have depression and did not use antidepressants, compared to 9.5% among those who use any antidepressant and diagnosed depression during the three years.  This means that those taking antidepressants and diagnosed with diabetes were at 50% increased risk for diabetes.

However, after adjustment for depression, the association of the antidepressant use with diabetes risk was less significant.  Depression seems to be a bigger risk factor as the study shows that Medicare beneficiaries with any depression were twice as likely as those without to develop diabetes mellitus.

The researchers concluded "Depression could independently increase risk of developing diabetes, while there is no evidence of association between antidepressants and new onset diabetes. If replicated, these results have significant clinical implications."

However, added later to the study was the following statement "Long-term use of antidepressants in the absence of depression increases risk of diabetes."

This is not the first study that found the link between antidepressant use and increased risk for diabetes mellitus.

Frank. B. Hu of Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues published a study earlier in Diabetologia suggesting antidepressant use may increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

They conducted a meta-analysis of three major cohort studies and found using antidepressant medications associated with 68 percent increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus after adjustment for age although the risk increase was attenuated to some degree after adjustment for other risk factors.

Specifically, the researchers found using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants was correlated with 10 and 26 percent increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus, respectively.

Antidepressant side effects that are commonly known include nausea, dry mouth, headache, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, anxiety, weight gain, and agitation among other things.

The side effects or adverse effects that may not be known or admitted by drug companies or found only after the drugs got approved by the Food and Drug Administration include sexual arousal difficulties, heart disease, increased risk of suicide in women, high blood pressure during pregnancy, developmental brain abnormalities, increased glaucoma risk, cataract, death and stroke in older women to name a few.

Those who do not want to take antidepressants because of their side effects may consider using an extract from St. John's wort called WS 5579, prepared by Dr. Willmar Schwab Pharmaceuticals, which a study found as effective as a popular antidepressant drug called paroxetine, which is branded as Paxil or Seroxat and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

In comparison, 50% of patients taking the St. John's wort or hypericum perforatum extract got their conditions improved, compared to 30% of those who used paroxetine.   The hypericum extract also worked well in patients with mild depression.

The extract was found to have fewer side effects, compared to paroxetine.

Paroxetine belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. European countries are concerned that this drug may increase the risk of suicide in young patients with depression. 

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