One of the more troubling side effects of antipsychotic drugs is weight gain, which can exasperate existing mental health problems. However, a new report says that it is possible to prevent weight gain through a focused lifestyle intervention.
Many antipsychotic drugs cause weight gain because of their tendency to stimulate hunger and thirst. They can also cause metabolic changes.
However, a new study shows it is possible to take these drugs and maintain or even lose weight. The key, according to researchers at the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Oregon: staging lifestyle interventions that show patients the impact of a poor diet and the way towards maintaining or losing weight.
This finding is based on a study of 200 adults taking antipsychotic medications like clozapine (FazaClo), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel) and risperidone (Risperdal). One half of the group received their usual therapy, while the other half attended weekly two-hour group meetings during which they met with mental health experts and nutritionists. These meetings also included roughly 20 minutes of physical activity.
Those attending the special meetings were asked to record what they ate, when they consumed food, how much they slept, and how much exercise they got each day.
The finding: those attending the special meetings lost, on average, ten pounds. Those who did not attend the meetings also lost weight, but much less.
The researchers behind the study found that having access to a community of like-minded people, mental health experts, and nutritionists helped in weight loss.
“In our qualitative interviews, we found that group support was one of the most important components of our intervention,” the research team noted. “Many of our participants said they benefited from the camaraderie of others who faced the same challenges, and this may be particularly important among people with serious mental health problems because they tend to be more socially isolated.”
The Oregon-based researchers said they hope the study shows doctors and patients alike that there is a way to lose or maintain body weight while taking antipsychotic drugs. They also expressed hope that the results would lead to the creation of new programs designed to help patients with weight management.