A new study has found a correlation between the use of a popular antidepressant during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity and Type II diabetes in children.
“Obesity and Type II diabetes in children is on the rise and there is the argument that it is related to lifestyle and availability of high calorie foods and reduced physical activity, but our study has found that maternal antidepressant use may also be a contributing factor to the obesity and diabetes epidemic,” said the study’s senior investigator Alison Holloway, Ph.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Researchers note that up to 20 percent of women in the United States and about seven percent of Canadian women are prescribed an antidepressant during pregnancy. Previous studies have found that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to depression, with estimates that one in five pregnant women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
“While it is known that these drugs can increase the risk of obesity in adults, it is unknown whether a woman’s antidepressant use during pregnancy increases the risk of metabolic disturbances in her children,” Holloway said.
The goal of the researchers’ project was to determine whether maternal exposure to fluoxetine, the commonly prescribed antidepressant also known as Prozac, is related to the development of fatty liver — an outcome commonly seen with obesity — in the offspring.
“We have demonstrated for the first time in an animal model that maternal use of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, resulted in increased fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver of the adult offspring, raising new concerns about the long-term metabolic complications in children born to women who take SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy,” said PhD student Nicole De Long, who presented the research at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and The Endocrine Society.
The researchers note their study does not suggest women should not take antidepressants during pregnancy, only that there may be risks associated with antidepressants that haven’t been previously identified.
“The benefit of the study is it may help in the identification of a high-risk group of children who may require specific interventions to prevent obesity and Type II diabetes later in life,” Holloway said.
The next stage of the research will be to understand why these drugs pose a risk, according to the researchers.
“If we can understand how the antidepressant causes adverse metabolic outcomes in the offspring, then we can design therapeutic strategies to prevent the damage while allowing women who require these drugs to be treated but reduce the potential harm to the offspring,” she said.
Source: McMaster University