In the past few years evidence has been accumulating that people who take antidepressants are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Some have wondered if it might be because people taking antidepressants tend to gain weight, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Yet no demonstrable connection has been established, and diabetes specialists suspect that there might be something about antidepressants that is an independent risk factor.
To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter!
Now a new study from Japan reported in the journal Diabetes Care has shed some light on the topic. The researchers, who were from the Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, evaluated the risk of type 2 diabetes among 45,265 adult residents of Japan who used antidepressants and compared it to a group of equal size who did not use antidepressants. The average age of the subjects was the mid-40s and about a third were women. The researchers used medical records gathered between 2005 and 2016 to identify antidepressant prescriptions and type 2 diabetes diagnoses.
The researchers determined that the risk of type 2 diabetes was greater for those who took a high dose of amitriptyline (or an equivalent tricyclic antidepressant) for at least 25 months compared to patients those who were not prescribed antidepressants. Similarly, the risk of type 2 diabetes risk was higher for those who took a moderate dose for between 12 and 24 months or a low dose for fewer than 12 months. Type 2 diabetes risk was also greater for those who took a moderate dose for a short term, a high dose for a short term, a low dose for an intermediate term, a high dose for an intermediate term, a low dose for a long term, and a moderate dose for a long term.
However, the researchers also found that blood sugar levels, as measured by an HbA1c test, returned to normal in 97.5% of the subjects who stopped using antidepressant medications. Similarly, blood glucose levels returned to normal in 94% of the patients who lowered their doses of antidepressants.
The researchers drew several conclusions. First, they reported, the evidence “strongly suggests a causal relationship between antidepressant administration and type 2 diabetes onset.” Second, discontinuing antidepressant medications or lowering the dose after diabetes is diagnosed “improves glucose tolerance.” Third, “To control medical costs, diabetes onset due to antidepressants should be considered when patients with a high risk of diabetes are offered treatment with antidepressants.” Finally, they wrote, “HbA1c level should be regularly monitored in patients taking antidepressants in order to inform the decision to reduce or discontinue antidepressant use, if possible, when impaired glucose tolerance is observed.”
Want to learn more about maintaining your mental health with diabetes? Read “Dealing With Diabetes and Depression,” “Reducing Diabetes Stress: Alternative Treatments” and “Relaxation Techniques for Stressful Times.”