Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Post-Trauma PTSD Symptoms Raise Risk of Obesity, Study Finds

Women who develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tend to demonstrate an increase in their body mass index (BMI) compared with women without such symptoms, said researchers in a report published online today in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study was based on 54,224 female participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II who provided data on trauma and PTSD symptoms beginning in 1989. Women who experienced trauma or PTSD before 1989 had a higher BMI during follow-up (through 2005), and their BMI increased at faster rates than in those without PTSD symptoms. For women exposed to trauma in 1989 or later, BMI increased at a faster rate after onset of PTSD symptoms, wrote Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.

Some combination of behavioral mechanisms (such as physical inactivity or unhealthy food choices) or biological  mechanisms (dysregulated neuroendocrine function) may account for these outcomes, they suggested.

“PTSD symptoms should raise clinician concerns about the potential development of physical health problems,” the researchers concluded. “[O]ur work highlights the importance of expanding PTSD treatments to attend to behavioral alterations—such as changes in diet or exercise—that lead to obesity.”

To read more about research on PTSD and descriptions of PTSD diagnostic criteria in DSM-5, see the Psychiatric News article "Trauma Disorder Criteria Reflect Variability of Response to Events."
(Image: Christine Langer-Pueschel/


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