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What is the Relationship Between Depression and Weight Gain?

In a recent research study, researchers determine the relationship between depression and weight gain and whether diet and exercise affect depressive disorders in women.

Depression and associated mood disorders have been shown to be a significant contributor to diseases across the globe, including obesity. The predisposition to depression is almost twice as high among females as males. Researchers wanted to know how these figures reflected in urban Mexican populations, so data was gathered from several studies for a cross-sectional analysis of female Mexican health workers and their struggles with depression and weight gain.

Researchers selected a sample of 456 adult female subjects from the Health Workers Cohort Study conducted between 2004 and 2006, during which an initial health baseline was performed, with follow-up data between 2010-2011. The methods for testing included a self-administered Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale for depressive disorder diagnosis, a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), a self-reporting physical activity questionnaire, and a DEXA body mass scan.

The results of this data analysis were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, and there were strong ties made between baseline depressive states and follow up the caloric intake and physical activity. When starting out with a higher depression baseline, the subjects tended to have a high dietary intake and lower leisure-time physical activity in the six-to-seven-year follow-up. They also noted that the inverse was true; higher caloric intake at the baseline was related to higher depression at follow-up.

In what appears to be a dynamic vicious circle of behavior reinforcement, previously measured depression acts as a common predictor for illness or disease in the future as does past excessive calorie intake and the lack of physical activity. Both models predict future mood disorders as a consequence. Despite this strong the evidence, however, the generalization of the data across a larger population is not applicable as this study included only Mexican women. The women in this study also had access to health care through insurance providers, and this may not be an accurate portrayal of middle to low-income class families in urban areas of Mexico. Still, with regards to Mexico’s propensity for obesity, this study could build the foundation for more effective targeted public health interventions and programs.

Written by Cooper Powers, BSc

Reference: Quezada, AD, Macias-Waldman, N, Salmerón, J, Swigart, T, Gallegos-Carillo, K. (2017). Physical activity and calorie intake mediate the relationship from depression to body fat mass among female Mexican health workers. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(160). DOI 10.1186/s12966-017-0612-x

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