Friday, March 22, 2013

Weight-Loss Program Shows Success in Psychiatric Patients

Obesity is common in people with psychiatric illnesses and is a likely contributor to the increased mortality rates in this population. Medications appear to play a role, but so do poor exercise and eating habits. However, the introduction of lifestyle changes through a targeted behavioral intervention may help counteract the extra pounds, suggests a new study published March 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Overweight and obese participants with mental illnesses participating in a diet and exercise program experienced moderate and progressive weight loss over the course of 18 months.

Led by Gail Daumit, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University, the behavioral program, termed the ACHIEVE trial, was based on lifestyle changes known to be effective in the general population and was amended to account for cognitive deficits present in mental illness. Nearly 300 people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder were divided into two groups—half participated in a program focused on improving eating and exercise habits, while the other half received no special training. Those in the intervention group lost an average of 7 pounds more over the course of the study compared with the control group, suggesting that despite the significant hurdles of psychiatric illness, weight loss is achievable with proper training and guidance. The study was supported by NIMH.

To read recent research about a link between gastric bypass surgery for weight loss and alcohol addiction, see Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Sheff/


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