Happy pills are linked to a higher risk of diabetes
- Researchers say the risk is for all antidepressants, not just some types
- The pills could put hundreds of thousands at risk of type 2 diabetes
- The increased risk could be because people on antidepressants are more likely to be overweight and this is a risk factor for diabetes
- Scientists think the pills may also be an independent risk factor
Antidepressants taken by hundreds of thousands of people may increase the chances of developing diabetes, researchers warn.A major study involving more than a million patients has shown that those taking all antidepressant pills are at far higher risk from the condition.Academics from Southampton University think this may be because antidepressants cause weight gain which in turn leads to type 2 diabetes.But despite the strong link, they cannot be sure that the pills are definitely causing the condition.Patients on antidepressants are more likely to be overweight so have a higher risk of developing diabetes in the first place than healthy individuals.The numbers of Britons taking antidepressants has soared in the last decade and more than 50 million prescriptions were handed out by GPs last year compared to just 20 million in 1999.But experts say doctors are handing out the pills too freely without considering the possible long-term side effects.In one of the largest studies of its kind, academics from Southampton University looked at 25 research papers that involved just over a million patients.The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, found many patients were developing type 2 diabetes – the commonest form – after they had been prescribed antidepressants, which suggests the pills cause the illness.
Antidepressants can cause weight gain and obesity which in turn worsens the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar -which triggers diabetes.Lead researcher Dr Katharine Barnard, a health psychologist from the University of Southampton said: ‘Antidepressants are used widely in the UK, with a significant increase in their use recently.
Our research shows that when you take away all the classic risk factors of type 2 diabetes; weight gain, lifestyle etc, there is something about antidepressants that appears to be an independent risk factor.This potential increased risk is worrying. Heightened alertness to the possibility of diabetes in people taking antidepressants is necessary until further research is conducted.’ Richard Holt, Professor in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Southampton, said: ‘While depression is an important clinical problem and antidepressants are effective treatments for this debilitating condition, clinicians need to be aware of the potential risk of diabetes, particularly when using antidepressants in higher doses or for longer duration.When prescribing antidepressants, doctors should be aware of this risk and take steps to monitor for diabetes and reduce that risk of diabetes through lifestyle modification.’