The use of antidepressants has been frequently implicated as increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. But the correlation between the two has long been complicated, with some studies finding a strong link while others have found none at all.
But, a new longitudinal study analyzing the data from over 60,000 individuals, has provided significant evidence that there is indeed a connection between the use of antidepressants and a higher incidence of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
This new study sheds some much-needed light on how much antidepressants of different types increase a person’s risk and adds to the growing wealth of information physicians should consider before prescribing these drugs to certain at-risk individuals.
Strong Correlation Between Antidepressants and Type 2 Diagnosis
This newest study conducted by researchers at the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal, used data from the E3N study, a French cohort longitudinal study, to determine how antidepressant use affected type 2 diabetes rates.
Using the long term data gathered from hundreds of thousands of French women, the researchers were able to identify a single cohort of nearly 64,000 women who did not have type 2 diabetes at baseline. Of these women, 16,779 used antidepressants during the follow-up period, and 1,124 developed type 2 diabetes.
Analysis of this data found that the use of antidepressants was associated with a 34% increase in type 2 risk compared to non-users.
Further analysis found that the relative risk of a T2D diagnosis varied based on the type of antidepressant prescribed. Those using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors had only a 25% higher risk, while those taking imipramine-type antidepressants or multiple antidepressant medications had the highest risk of developing type 2.
Factoring BMI only marginally affected these numbers, providing evidence that antidepressants increase type 2 risk independent of medication-related weight gain.
Understanding the Connection Between Medication and Risk
This study is not the first to come to such grim conclusions on these medications and their connection to type 2 diabetes.
Many studies have found that higher doses of antidepressants are associated with an even greater increased risk of type 2 and that mixing medication types appears to further exacerbate the risk.
But why these medications appear to cause type 2 diabetes is still not well understood.
Previous studies looking specifically at antidepressant use in diagnosed type 2s have found that some medications actually work to stabilize blood sugars while others greatly increase the risk of hyperglycemia.
It is unclear if both of these effects are a direct result of the medication.
- It is possible that greater control over blood sugars may be a by-product of the increased propensity to exercise and focus on self-care that results from improved mood due to the medication.
- On the other hand, many antidepressants are known to cause weight gain, a complicating factor in the development of diabetes.
While some studies, like the one above, found that BMI did not appear to influence the risk of type 2, others have found just the opposite. Considering how much excess weight on its own increases one’s type 2 risk, it makes sense that weight gain caused by medication use would in turn increase diabetes risk.
How to Apply What We Do Know About Antidepressants and Type 2
At the moment, there is still no definitive evidence that antidepressants cause type 2 diabetes.
However, there is more than enough validated data that draws a strong correlation between the two that it may be worth taking some precautions, both as a physician and as someone considering these medications.
Doctors prescribing antidepressants should be monitoring their patient’s blood sugars along with other blood markers to assure diabetes is caught early if it does appear. Clinical tests are especially important considering that many people who develop hyperglycemia while on antidepressants do not gain weight or show any outward signs of an issue.
As a patient considering antidepressant use, it would be worthwhile to assess your own type 2 risk based on health status and family history before deciding on specific depression treatment.
Since some types of depression medication appear to be less risky than others, this information may help you determine which antidepressant is right for you.