Overweight can cause depression, study finds

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In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers found further evidence that being overweight causes depression and lowers wellbeing.

With one in four adults estimated to be obese in the UK, and growing numbers of children affected, obesity is a global health challenge.

While the dangers of being obese on physical health is well known, researchers are now discovering that being overweight can also have a big impact on mental health.

In the study, the team used genetic analysis to examine whether the causal link is the result of psychosocial pathways, such as societal influences and social stigma, or physical pathways, such as metabolic conditions linked to higher BMI.

Such conditions include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The team examined genetic data from more than 145,000 participants from the UK Biobank with detailed mental health data available.

They analyzed genetic variants linked to higher BMI, as well as outcomes from a clinically relevant mental health questionnaire designed to assess levels of depression, anxiety and wellbeing.

The team also interrogated two sets of previously discovered genetic variants.

One set of genes makes people fatter, yet metabolically healthier, meaning they were less likely to develop conditions linked to higher BMI, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

The second set of genes analyzed makes people fatter and metabolically unhealthy, or more prone to such conditions.

The team found little difference between the two sets of genetic variants, indicating that both physical and social factors play a role in higher rates of depression and poorer wellbeing.

The team says obesity and depression are both major global health challenges, and this study provides the most robust evidence to date that higher BMI causes depression.

Understanding whether physical or social factors are responsible for this link can help inform effective strategies to improve mental health and wellbeing.

The research suggests that being fatter leads to a higher risk of depression, regardless of the role of metabolic health.

This suggests that both physical health and social factors, such as social stigma, both play a role in the relationship between obesity and depression.

If you care about depression, please read studies about this metal in the brain strongly linked to depression and findings of a core feature of depression.

For more information about depression and your health, please see recent studies about this health problem may double your depression risk and results showing why is it so hard to withdraw from some depression drugs?

The study is published in Human Molecular Genetics. One author of the study is Jess O’Loughlin.

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