Study: Weight Gain During Postmenopausal Period Associated With Weight-promoting Medications

Abdominal weight gain during the postmenopausal period is associated with the use of antidepressants, beta-blockers, and insulin during the menopause transition.

Abdominal weight gain during the postmenopausal period is associated with the use of antidepressants, beta-blockers, and insulin during the menopause transition, according to a study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Unintentional weight gain has been demonstrated to be associated with many medications used for hypertension, diabetes, depression, and/or other mental health problems in prior studies. Additionally, women during the postmenopausal period, which is already associated with a higher prevalence of being overweight or obese, are more likely to be prescribed many of these medications that result in weight gain.

In the study, the researchers sought to assess the magnitude of the association between weight-promoting medications and a 3-year weight change in postmenopausal women. In order to make this assessment, the researchers measured body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference at baseline and at 3 years. They then cross-checked the results with an inventory of prescribed medicines, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, insulin, and/or glucocorticosteroids.

The results of the study demonstrated that taking at least 1 weight-promoting medication was associated with a greater increase in BMI and waist circumference compared with women not taking these medications.

For both BMI and waist circumference, the results showed that both of these measurements increased in relation to the number of weight-promoting drugs prescribed to the patient.

Specifically, taking either antidepressants or insulin, or a combination of antidepressants and beta-blockers, was connected with a significant increase in BMI compared with those not prescribed the drugs. Additionally, racial and ethnic minority women were more affected by the weight gain increase associated with the use of the prescription medications.

Due to the clear correlation between these prescription drugs and weight gain, the study authors noted the importance of being cautious when prescribing these medications to postmenopausal women. It may be necessary to decide whether each medication is necessary, whether alternative options may be available, and whether the lowest possible dose is currently being prescribed.

"This study highlights the significant adverse health effects of obesity and the association between use of weight-promoting medications such as antidepressants, antihypertensives, and insulin and weight gain in midlife women. In addition to ensuring that these weight-promoting medications are used judiciously and in the lowest doses needed to achieve the desired outcomes, lifestyle strategies to mitigate these adverse effects, such as diet quality, physical activity level, and sleep quality and duration, should be emphasized," said Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, FACP, NCMP, IF, NAMS medical director, in a press release.


How much postmenopause weight gain can be blamed on weight-promoting medications? The North American Menopause Society; July 15, 2020. Accessed August 18, 2020.

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