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    PTSD can lead to obesity, study says



    Women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gain weight more quickly and are more likely to be overweight or obese than women who are not suffering from the disorder, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry. The study was the first to look at the relationship between obesity and PTSD over time.

    Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Harvard School of Public Health used a subsample of the Nurses’ Health Study II of 54,224 participants. Women aged 24 to 44 years were assessed  for trauma and PTSD studies in 1989 using a PTSD screener to measure PTSD symptoms and were re-assessed with the screener in 2005.

    In women who exhibited at least 4 PTSD symptoms before the study’s start in 1989, body mass index (BMI) increased steeply during the follow up (b=0.09 [SE = 0.01]; P<0.01). Onset of at least 4 PTSD symptoms in 1989 or later was also associated with an increased risk of becoming obese or overweight (odds ratio, 1.36, 95% confidence interval, 1.19-1.56) among women who had a normal BMI in 1989. Among women who developed PTSD after the initiation of the study in 1989, BMI trajectory before PTSD onset did not differ from the BMI trajectory found in women who did not suffer from PTSD. Even after adjusting for the effects of depression, the effect of PTSD on weight remained.

    The investigators concluded that PTSD was linked to risk of rapid weight gain and obesity and urged doctors treating women with PTSD to pay attention to potential weight gain. They also concluded that it was the PTSD and not the originating trauma that created the risk. The scientists speculated that stress hormones, bad habits as a means of managing stress, or disturbance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis could be the cause of the association. 



    To get weekly advice for today's Ob/Gyn, subscribe to the Contemporary Ob/Gyn Special Delivery.

    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.


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