If you were asked to take a medication (for an illness you don’t believe you have) and warned that the side effects might include:
- sexual disfunction and
- weight gain,
would you take it?
And, to paraphrase the famous movie line, “You had me (saying hell, no!) at weight gain.”
This has been one of the reasons my son hates to take his meds, and refuses or pretends to swallow them whenever possible. For years, we have worked around this, but yes. I get why.
Finally, though, there is some explanation about the weight gain, which may lead to more research and better medications.
According to new research, the problem is in “ blocking certain dopamine receptors, known as D2-like receptors.” This is how most antipsychotics work.
But – and I never knew this before (not a neuroscientist, but I sure feel like one sometimes) – “the body actually has more dopamine receptors outside the brain than within it”.
Whoa! This is according to Dr. Zachary Freyberg, the senior researcher on the new study.
And where are these receptors? Many are in the pancreas, too, and “when the researchers used antipsychotic medications to block the pancreatic cells’ D2-like receptors, that ramped up the production of both glucagon and insulin. In the body, unchecked release of those hormones could quickly lead to a loss in insulin sensitivity and chronically high blood sugar levels.”
So – the weight gain my son experiences when on these meds is not his fault.
So what now?
Researchers are looking to find new meds that don’t block dopamine, and find other ways.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Please, yes, more research, new treatments. Save our loved ones.
In the meanwhile, I will add that three things have helped my son keep his weight gain to minimum: physical exercise (he lost at least ten pounds when he began to work as a restaurant server), keeping the carb intake down (not so easy for a vegetarian, but the more he used vegetables and fruits the healthier he got), and keeping an eye on boredom eating. the busier he is, the better his eating.
This isn’t earthshattering news for any of us watching our weight – but it has been nice to see that even on psych meds these methods can help.
Still – when he lost his job due to Covid crash (economic, not medical), his activity went down and boredom went up.
So – please – keep that research coming.
And thanks for some good news.