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14-03-2012 | Mental health | Article

Three-fold increased risk for obesity in BD, schizophrenia patients


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MedWire News: Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) or schizophrenia are over three times more likely to be overweight or obese than the general population, results from a Spanish study show.

Writing in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, Manuel Gurpegui (University of Granada) and team explain that "multiple studies suggest an association of overweight and obesity with BD and schizophrenia."

To investigate the strength of the association, the team studied 108 patients with BD (69% women), aged a mean of 48 years, 250 with schizophrenia (78% men), aged a mean of 36 years, and 290 mentally healthy controls (61% women), aged a mean of 41 years.

Body mass index (BMI) was calculated according to criteria from the US National Institutes of Health, with participants defined as underweight (BMI <18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9 kg/m2), or obese (BMI ≥30.0 kg/m2).

Overall, 39% of BD patients were overweight and 34% obese, 43% of schizophrenia patients were overweight and 24% obese, and 35% of controls were overweight and 7.2% were obese.

After accounting for gender, age, and educational level, the researchers found that, compared with controls, BD and schizophrenia patients were 3.9 and 3.4 times more likely to be overweight, respectively, and 4.6 and 4.3 times more likely to be obese, respectively.

In BD patients, male gender, earlier onset of symptoms, increasing age, nonpsychiatric comorbidity, current use of mood-stabilizing medication, and being a nonsmoker were significantly associated with being overweight, while nonpsychiatric comorbidity and male gender were significantly associated with being obese.

In schizophrenia patients, female gender and high doses of antipsychotic medication were significantly associated with being overweight, while female gender, high doses of antipsychotic medication, and lower Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale scores were significantly associated with being obese.

Gurpegui and team conclude: "Our results… suggest that overweight or obesity among patients with BD or schizophrenia could be attributed, rather than to a specific psychiatric diagnosis, to a chronic course of illness and the long-term use of psychotropic medication."

They add: "The development of obesity among psychiatric patients is a complex matter in which numerous variables apparently intervene.

"Clearly, future studies - preferably longitudinal ones - are needed so that we may define the groups of psychiatric patients at a higher risk of developing overweight or obesity, in order to devise specific prevention programs."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen

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