15 May, 2023

Is There A Connection Between Obesity And Depression?

Both obesity and depression are significant health issues that can impair a person’s ability to go about their daily lives. In the United States today, about forty-three percent of American adults struggle with both depression and obesity, in addition to other related illnesses.

Depression is a complex condition that experts are still working to fully understand and can be caused by chemical imbalances in the body or situational factors. Depression can bring with it many symptoms that affect an individual’s quality of life, and we are frequently asked, “Does obesity cause depression, or does depression cause obesity?”

There are many indicators that point to links between obesity and depression. In this article, we will examine this question in greater depth and provide insight into the potential connections between depression and obesity.

Does Obesity Affect Mental Health?

While the connection between obesity and physical health is well established, the link between obesity and mental health, particularly depression, has also been the subject of targeted research.

Several studies have indicated that the relationship between obesity and mental health is bidirectional and that individuals with obesity are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, and conversely, individuals with depression are at a higher risk of developing obesity.

According to a study conducted by Yale University, there is a correlation between depression and overeating. The terms “comfort foods” or “stress eating” are commonly used to describe the act of using food to temporarily improve or alter one’s mood. Individuals with chronic stress tend to consume high-fat foods that can contribute to mood disorders and metabolic issues such as type 2 diabetes.

The results of another study revealed that fat cells release inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that are found throughout the immune system and the central nervous system. Individuals with higher percentages of body fat would experience higher levels of cytokines. High levels of cytokines can directly lead to the development of mood disorders and depression.

According to an article published by the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), there is a relationship between eating habits that are unhealthy and an increased likelihood of suffering from anxiety and depression. The article went on to state that individuals who are obese tend to experience anxiety and depression more often than those with a healthy BMI (body mass index).

Research related to the link between depression and obesity reached far beyond the U.S. alone, as obesity has reached epidemic proportions throughout the world. A combined study of statistics related to women concluded that depression can promote obesity, and obesity can contribute to depression. Several other studies conducted in China, Germany, Norway, etc. have also provided significant evidence that the two conditions can fuel each other, creating a cyclical effect.

Obesity causes and effects

Why Does Obesity Cause Depression?

While studies have indicated that obesity can increase the risk of developing depression, not all individuals with obesity will experience depression, and not all individuals with depression are obese. However, the relationship between these two conditions is real and complex.

Some of the various factors that can promote or exacerbate depression in obese individuals may include:

1. Biological Factors
Obesity is linked to changes in the body that can affect how the brain works and make depressive feelings worse. Adipose tissue, or fat cells, send out chemicals called cytokines that cause inflammation. Chronic inflammation, which is common in obese people, can change the way the neurotransmitters work and throw off the balance in the brain, causing mood problems. Also, changes in hormones like leptin and ghrelin can affect a person’s mood and make them more likely to get depressed.
2. Body Image and Social Stigma
Obese individuals often face social stigma, discrimination, and negative body image, which can significantly impact their mental health. Society’s emphasis on thinness and unrealistic beauty standards can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of shame and worthlessness for someone suffering from obesity. The mental and emotional stress associated with obesity can contribute to the onset of depression or the escalation of depressive symptoms.
3. Psychological Factors
Emotional eating, or “binge eating,” is a common behavior associated with obesity. Food is often used as a coping mechanism for dealing with negative emotions, which leads to a vicious cycle where overeating contributes to weight gain, which promotes depressive symptoms. The emotional distress caused by the challenges of managing their weight, failed weight loss attempts, and the perceived lack of control over their eating habits then feeds into their depressive state.
4. Social Isolation
Individuals suffering from obesity may face social isolation due to weight-related stigma, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and contribute to depression. Anxiety fueled by certain social situations can cause obese individuals to withdraw and avoid contact with others.

Social interactions and support networks are critical to maintaining good mental health, and when those connections are compromised, it can have a significant impact on well-being and result in depression.

5. Serious Health Issues
Obesity often leads to physical health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic joint or back pain, mobility limitations, and fatigue. These physical ailments can prevent individuals from participating in physical activities and reduce their overall quality of life.
6. Limited Mobility
The inability to participate in enjoyable activities or the mental exhaustion created by chronic pain can contribute to feelings of sadness, frustration, and helplessness, increasing the risk of developing depression.

Studies Show Depression Can Influence Obesity

While obesity can promote depression, studies have also looked at this chronic condition from the other side to determine if depression can cause obesity. The two are so closely related that the lines can be confusing, but brain imaging studies have provided valuable insights into some underlying factors facilitating this relationship.

  • Studies have shown that many individuals with depression exhibit alterations in the way their brain functions. The brain releases neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are part of the naturally occurring motivation and pleasure circuitry. Individuals suffering from depression showed reduced activity in these regions of their brain. They may turn to food or other addictive substances as a means of seeking pleasure or comfort.
  • Common behavior patterns have been identified in depressed individuals pertaining to the executive functions of the brain. These include cognitive processes such as decision-making, impulse control, and planning, which may contribute to the consumption of high-calorie, unhealthy foods and difficulty adhering to healthy eating and exercise routines. Depressed individuals also often exhibit higher levels of impulsivity, which can further contribute to impulsive eating behaviors and weight gain.
  • Depression disrupts the emotional regulation processes in the brain and can lead to difficulties in managing negative emotions, resulting in unhealthy eating patterns. Emotional eating involves consuming food in response to emotional triggers rather than hunger, which can lead to excessive calorie intake and weight gain.
    A study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine looked at teenagers and how depression can lead to poor dietary choices and sedentary behavior that promote obesity in young adults.
  • Individuals who suffer from depression often also possess an overactive stress response system. Chronic stress can stimulate the release of hormones like cortisol, which affects appetite regulation and can lead to weight gain. Some individuals with depression may engage in stress-induced eating, particularly high-calorie comfort foods, as a way to self-soothe and alleviate negative emotions.

Depression and the lack of proper brain function have been linked to increased susceptibility to cravings and chronic overeating. Many antidepressants also have the side effect of weight gain, which can make a volatile situation even worse.

Obesity And Mental Health

Whether depression contributes to obesity or vice versa, the two are linked and mutually influential.

Unhealthy eating habits caused by depression can lead to obesity, which in turn can decrease an individual’s self-esteem and contribute to this ongoing cycle.

Symptoms Of Depression That Can Promote Obesity

  1. Noticeable modifications to the individual’s eating routine (binge eating disorder, etc.);
  2. Overconsumption of junk food, sweets, processed foods, and depressive eating;
  3. Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep;
  4. Lack of energy and a sedentary lifestyle.

What Is Depressive Eating?

Depressive eating refers to a pattern of consuming food in response to emotional states, particularly negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, or stress, rather than in response to hunger. It is a coping mechanism that some individuals adopt to soothe or distract themselves from unpleasant emotions.

Individuals suffering from depressive eating exhibit signs such as

  • Indulging in excessive amounts of unhealthy food and finding it hard to stop eating;
  • The food consumed offers no satisfaction;
  • Feeling emotionally detached or mindless while eating;
  • Post-meal regret and feeling out of control and worthless.

How Can Weight Loss Help Depression?

The link between obesity and mental health can manifest itself in both physical and emotional arenas.

The Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior published a study related to weight loss that revealed that patients who suffered from depression who lost as little as eight percent of their total body weight noticed marked improvements in their symptoms of depression. It was also noted that this weight loss provided benefits such as reduced stress levels, better quality sleep, increased mobility, reduced back and joint pain, and in some cases, eliminated obesity-related conditions.

Reaching a healthy body mass index can help provide increased energy as well as provide balance in the hippocampus which helps regulate depression. It can also help increase self-esteem, boost self-confidence, stabilize mood swings, and provide a more positive outlook.

How Can Obesity Be Treated To Improve Symptoms Of Depression?

There are various approaches to treating individuals who are experiencing depression and obesity. There are different factors that may contribute to an individual’s obesity, including:

  • The root cause of their eating behavior;
  • Environmental factors;
  • Lifestyle choices.

Since there are complex causes that may impact an individual’s weight, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. A multi-faceted approach must be taken when selecting the appropriate treatment for each person.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help some patients identify triggers and situations that induce unhealthy eating habits. Therapy coupled with a structured weight loss program has proven successful for many individuals.

A doctor-supervised weight loss program can help individuals whose previous weight loss attempts have been unsuccessful. These patients can finally reach their weight loss goals because the doctor can offer non-surgical weight loss tools, strategies, and support that the individual is unable to provide for themselves.

What Non-Surgical Weight Loss Procedures Can Help Relieve Weight-Related Depression?

The advancement in endoscopic procedures has made it possible to get help with weight loss without undergoing bariatric surgery. Endoscopic procedures are done using a special medical device that is lowered down the patient’s throat and allows the doctor to not only access the procedure site but also see everything they are doing on a monitor as a tiny camera streams live video.

There are no incisions or hospital stays involved, and there are significantly shorter recovery times than with traditional surgery. Two safe and effective endoscopic non-surgical weight loss procedures include:

Orbera Balloon

The Orbera weight loss balloon is a non-surgical, temporary weight loss device designed to help individuals with obesity achieve significant weight loss. A silicone balloon-like device is placed inside the stomach through an endoscopic procedure and filled with saline solution, reducing the available space for food and promoting feelings of fullness.

Orbera gastric balloon

By occupying space in the stomach, the Orbera balloon helps individuals consume smaller portions during meals, leading to reduced calorie intake. The balloon remains in the stomach for six months, during which time individuals follow a low-calorie diet, engage in physical activity, and receive guidance from a support team. This team may include dieticians, coaches, or various therapists to help patients facilitate lifestyle changes and develop healthy eating habits.

The Orbera weight loss balloon is effective for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40 who have not achieved significant weight loss through diet and exercise alone. To find out your body mass index (BMI), use our online BMI calculator.

The data from clinical research has shown that individuals who undergo the Orbera weight loss balloon procedure can achieve triple the weight loss results compared to using just diet or exercise alone.

Most patients experience weight loss between 20 and 50 pounds. It is important to note that the amount of weight an individual can lose using the Orbera balloon depends on the individual’s commitment to making lifestyle changes, including adopting a healthy diet, increasing their level of exercise, and addressing any behavioral factors related to their weight gain.

Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG)

Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure that aims to help obese individuals achieve significant weight loss.

During an ESG procedure, an endoscope is inserted through the individual’s mouth into their stomach. The doctor uses sutures placed by a special device to reshape the stomach from the inside. This effectively reduces its size and creates a tube-like shape similar to the most commonly performed bariatric surgery, the gastric sleeve. This restricts the stomach’s capacity, helping the individual to feel full with smaller amounts of food.

Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty

ESG does not involve surgery, removing any part of the stomach, or rerouting the digestive tract, as seen in traditional bariatric surgeries like gastric bypass. It is a purely restrictive procedure that helps individuals limit their food intake. Another benefit of ESG is that it does not inhibit the absorption of any nutrients from food.

ESG is typically performed under general anesthesia, and patients can go home the same day. Recovery time is significantly shorter compared to surgical procedures, with fewer risks and complications.

Patients that have undergone the ESG procedure and have adopted a healthy lifestyle, including making dietary changes, incorporating daily physical activity, and addressing underlying factors affecting their weight, have experienced tremendous results. Patients have reported weight loss results ranging from 30 pounds to over 100 pounds after their endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty procedure.

Reveal Weight Loss Can Help You Overcome Obesity

Understanding that there is a relationship between depression and obesity can help doctors and patients work together to implement effective treatments. Treating obesity through a holistic approach that includes a wide variety of strategies to address both emotional and physical contributors is very effective in promoting sustainable weight loss.

If you are suffering from obesity, Reveal Weight Loss can help. We offer the most comprehensive weight loss programs in New Jersey and are proud to be considered the leaders in endoscopic weight loss procedures.

From your first consultation and throughout the entirety of your weight loss journey, we will be by your side, providing support and guidance to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Your weight loss journey is not merely about shedding pounds; it is about embracing a healthier lifestyle that will enhance your overall quality of life. Contact us today for a personal consultation and take that first step toward a healthier, happier you.

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