This Surprising Disease Could Make You Depressed

By on March 26, 2014
Feeling depressed? Chances are it may be caused by obesity, according to new research from the University of Rutgers-Camden.

Though it hasn’t been the first time the two diseases have been linked, this is the first to predict why it may be occurring–and the news isn’t good.

While men aren’t susceptible to some symptoms of depression, women who are often have an increased appetite, tiredness, and erratic sleep patterns, all signs that can make a woman eat more calories over the long haul.

And when that occurs, obesity is quick to follow, say researchers.

“Adolescence is a key developmental period for both obesity and depression, so we thought it significant to look at the onset of these disorders at an early age,” says Naomi Marmorstein, a Rutgers-Camden associate professor of psychology. “We tried to take the next step in clarifying this link by looking at a sample of youth that we followed from ages 11 to 24.”

The Research

Teaming up with University of Minnesota psychology professor William Iacono and research associate Lisa Legrand, Marmorstein sought to find out why both obesity and depression were so closely associated in women, a statistic that didn’t seem to carry over to men suffering from the same diseases. To do so, she tracked a total of 1,500 men and women in Minnesota for a total of 10 years, seeing how their depression and obesity progressed as time went on.

After collecting the data, she then sorted through it to see when they became depressed–and at what age obesity was commonplace.

Pooling together the information, Marmorstein found that women who were obese in late adolescence were more likely to develop depression into adulthood–a sign that obesity itself may be the triggering factor for this disease.

“When a person is young, she is still developing eating and activity patterns, as well as coping mechanisms,” says Marmorstein. “So if she experiences a depressive episode at age 14, she may be more at risk for having an onset of unhealthy patterns that persist.”

In turn, Marmorstein says that simply treating depression with therapy and medications isn’t enough–instead, nutrition must be a very real part of the equation. Obesity, in this instance, seems to worsen depression, so by controlling it, you also stop depression from getting worse.

That’s easier said than done though.

“When an adolescent girl receives treatment for depression, the clinician might consider incorporating something relating to healthy eating and activity,” says Marmorstein. “Exercise can assist in the treatment of depression to begin with, so it seems like a good reason to combine prevention efforts for both depression and obesity.”

The best solution for you? If your eating habits are out of control, get help from a nutritionist–or better yet, learn how to manage your cravings. Doing so may save you from getting bigger, which could make your depression worse.

Readers: What are some other ways you help make your depression less severe?

Study: Obesity and Depression Linked in Teen

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