Obesity May Be Connected to PTSD, Says New Study

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs exploded a short distance from the 
    finish line during the running of the Boston Marathon. Three people were 
    killed and more than 260 were injured. 

    In the days that followed the attack, area veterans began to experience 
    heightened levels of anxiety. Some called in sick from work. Another, an 
    alcoholic who was struggling to maintain sobriety, began drinking again. 
    Yet another suffered from watching an excess of media coverage and had 
    to be hospitalized. 

    Thirty-eight percent of area veterans who were surveyed reported feeling emotional distress, and the majority reported experiencing unwanted memories of personal traumas.

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    PTSD
    Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that presents in 
    people who have experienced or seen a traumatic event, including but not limited to a natural disaster, serious accident, act of terrorism, war or combat, or violent personal attack. 

    Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, and one out of every nine females will meet the criteria for PTSD in their lifetime. 

    PTSD and Accompanying Obesity Among Women
    It is not unusual behavior for those suffering from PTSD to eat and 
    drink things that are unhealthy and avoid exercise. In addition, PTSD is 
    often accompanied by depression. Depression often leads to weight gain.

     

    Researchers have investigated the potential link between PTSD and 
    obesity before, although it was unclear if one caused the other. The best 
    way to determine a causal effect would be to track females across a 
    period of time and compare the weight gain of women with PTSD to the 
    weight gain of women who did not have the condition.


    Researchers from Harvard, Columbia, and Boston Universities used data 
    collected from the Nurses Health Study II to see if an association 
    existed between PTSD in women and weight gain. Their findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.


    Researchers gathered data from 50,504 women who filled out a questionnaire about trauma and PTSD in 2008. These subjects also provided measures of their body mass index from across the year. A subset of 14,828 nurses who had not experienced PTSD when they enrolled in the study was created. Some of these women would go on to experience traumatic events and develop some symptoms of PTSD--although not enough to receive a diagnosis. Others presented with the four or more symptoms needed to qualify for a diagnosis.


    Those nurses who had a healthy weight when joining the study and went on 
    to develop symptoms of PTSD were found to be more likely to gain weight 
    than those women who experienced a traumatic event but remained symptom-free.


    Those with two or three symptoms of PTSD were 18% more likely to gain 
    weight or become obese, while those with four or more symptoms were 36% 
    more likely to gain weight or become obese. Women who were diagnosed 
    with PTSD also gained weight faster than women who presented with only a 
    few symptoms of the illness.


    When the data from all the nurses who participated in the study was 

  • examined, it was found that 15% with one to three symptoms were more 

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    likely to gain weight or become obese while those with four or more 
    symptoms were 26% more likely to gain weight or become obese.     
     

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    References:
    Anxiety and Depression Association of America
    Boston Globe 
    Encyclopedia Britannica
    Los Angeles Times 

Published On: March 07, 2014