Antidepressants Linked to Diabetes Risk

Diabetes may be more likely for patients who take antidepressants

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) More people than ever are taking antidepressants, and concerns have been raised that these medications may affect blood sugar levels and possibly lead to diabetes.

Recent research has confirmed a link between antidepressant use and diabetes, but the reason behind the connection is yet to be determined.

Even though the researchers could not explain what caused this link, they offered some suggestions. For example, some antidepressant medications may lead to weight gain, which in turn could increase diabetes risk.

"Ask a pharmacist about the side effects of your antidepressants."

Katharine Barnard, PhD, a health psychologist and senior research fellow with the human development and health faculty of medicine at the University of Southampton in England, led this review of 22 studies on antidepressant use among adults 18 and older and that measured blood sugar levels.

Study populations ranged from 17 to more than 200,000. One investigation followed 165,958 patients with depression, each of whom had received at least one new prescription for an antidepressant. Of these patients, 2,243 developed diabetes.

Researchers compared these results to 8,963 healthy individuals who had not used antidepressants.

Results showed that taking moderate to high doses of antidepressants for more than two years was linked to an 84 percent greater risk of getting diabetes compared to not using antidepressants for that timeframe.

This review found that some antidepressants affected glucose metabolism (the process of the body to convert sugar into energy in the body).

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to use sugar in the blood. Then blood sugar levels can rise above normal, a condition called hyperglycemia.

The researchers also noted that antidepressant use may be a risk factor for developing diabetes. They added, however, that some studies involving large numbers of people receiving antidepressants suggest that any risk was small.

Although the researchers could not pinpoint causes for increased diabetes risk among antidepressant users, they did suggest some.

“Several antidepressants are associated with significant weight gain, which in turn increases insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes,” the authors wrote.

Some studies, however, suggest that other factors beyond weight gain are involved. For example, the authors wrote that “...antipsychotics may affect glucose metabolism by altering insulin resistance or secretion directly.”

Dr. Barnard and her colleagues recommended a “heightened alertness” of potential diabetes risk among antidepressant users. However, “...long-term prospective studies are required to assess this relationship further.”

This review was published in October in Diabetes Care. The research was funded by the University of Southampton.

Review Date: 
October 12, 2013
Last Updated:
October 14, 2013