Antidepressants Increase Risk of Diabetes, Heart Attack, and Dementia

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

October 9, 2017

Antidepressants Increase Risk of Diabetes, Heart Attack, and Dementia
Extensive studies show that antidepressant medications increase the risk of diabetes. Other concerns like heart disease and dementia are also suspect. America is in a sea of prescription drug use and many individuals struggle with adverse effects. Oftentimes, the medications are prescribed with no cessation of use in sight. Long-term adverse effects may not be known, understood, or perhaps not even revealed by drug companies, yet the consumer faces a number of challenges that might be dismissed as aging, stress, or just bad luck. Information is the key to making informed choices. If you are on antidepressant medication, be aware!

Antidepressants and New Onset Diabetes: A Disconcerting Trend

A 2012 study evaluated three groups of adult participants (total number of participants 168,435) who were free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at the baseline. Participants were followed for several years. After reviewing and adjusting for diabetes risk factors, high cholesterol, hypertension, and BMI/body mass index, it was found that the participants who used antidepressant medications had an increased risk of new onset diabetes compared to those who did not use antidepressant meds. Both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/SSRI’s (e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, etc) and tricyclic antidepressants were associated with the elevated risk of new onset diabetes.

Another 2012 study evaluated 44,715 adults. Researchers evaluated antidepressants (SSRI, SNRI, tricyclic antidepressants,) and benzodiazepines. During the eight-year study, 6.6 percent or 2,943 individuals developed diabetes which was attributed to antidepressant use. A 2013 systematic review and meta-analysis studies found similar findings and continued trend. It was found that antidepressant use was associated with higher chances of new-onset diabetes.

As the story develops, we see additional information from the World Psychiatry journal and the World Psychiatric Association. Their review of scientific literature from 2009 to 2014 revealed that antidepressants and antipsychotics use are associated with diabetes and several physical diseases. Antipsychotics, which may be used for some with depression, fared worse than antidepressants.

Regardless, it was found that diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, thyroid disorders, electrolyte imbalances/low sodium levels, cardiovascular, respiratory tract, blood, kidney, seizure disorders, and musculoskeletal disease occurred at a higher rate when treated with these types of medications. Patients who were on higher doses and multiple drugs were more likely to develop drug-induced disease. The young and old were also more vulnerable.

The July 2017 PLoS One journal provided the most recent systematic review and meta-analysis on this topic of new onset diabetes in antidepressant users. After extensive analysis of past and current literature and evaluation of proposed bias, the authors concluded that the findings are accurate. There is an association with new-onset diabetes in those who use antidepressant medications

The suspected reason why this occurs is related with how certain antidepressants affect various receptor sites involved with blood sugar metabolism. Exact details of the how, what, and why are being evaluated and will take considerable time.

Antidepressants and Heart Attacks

A smaller, similar trend is seen with antidepressant use associated with heart disease and dementia. The trail of evidence is less clear, none-the-less snippets of evidence give cause for concern. In 2000, The American Journal of Medicine reported that there was excess risk of heart attacks in patients treated with tricyclic antidepressants

Fast forward to 2015. The Indian Journal of Pharmacology published a systematic review and comprehensive meta-analysis. They concluded, “We found evidence that the use of antidepressants was associated with the elevated risk of myocardial infarction.” It was specifically found that tricyclic antidepressant users had a 36 percent increased risk of heart attack regardless of other factors.

In 2016, the journal Diabetic Medicine reported on the cardiovascular risk with combined use of antidiabetic and antidepressant medications. They evaluated data from over 4 million adults age 45-84. The findings showed that 42,840 individuals had their first heart attack, in which 3511 were fatal and was associated with the medication use. In this Swedish study, middle age women were more likely than men to experience a first time heart attack. The greatest risk occurred when the two classes of drugs were combined.

Antidepressants and Dementia Risk

In yet another context, scientists evaluated antidepressant medication treatment and risk of dementia. In this 2016 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry study, several factors were evaluated and adjusted for. Their findings showed primarily two things. First, the use of SSRIs, MAO inhibitors, heterocyclic antidepressants, and other antidepressants was associated with increased risk of dementia. Second, as dosage increased, dementia risk increased.

Any of these findings are disconcerting as it goes against health and “first do no harm”. These findings show that it makes the sick even sicker. With that comes an increased burden to individuals, their families, work place, society, the economy, and ultimately our country as a whole. Scientists will continue to grapple with statistics to make sense of cause and effects and associations with disease causation and drugs. Physicians will continue to prescribe these drugs, but it will ultimately take years for the consumer to become aware of these risks unless someone speaks up.

The fact that world-class journals and major psychiatric organizations have completed studies on these topics means that an issue or risk has been identified. As a consumer, you must understand that these studies have revealed more than just a passing symptom. These studies have identified the concern that many types of antidepressants actually cause enough stress on the body to create disease. Many variables certainly do exist, but the effect is that some individuals seeking relief for depression are having their health destroyed in other dimensions because of their medications.

These effects may not be discussed on drug literature or when your physician prescribes them. For example, drug information sites on Prozac list the development of diabetes as less than 0.1 percent, yet some of the statistics listed above show at least 6 percent of those treated with antidepressants develop diabetes. Professional drug information states that SSRI’s like Prozac should be used with caution in diabetics and may alter blood sugar control, but the information about non-diabetics developing diabetes with the drug is not included.

Tricyclic antidepressant drug information like Nortriptyline lists chest pain and cardiac rhythm problems as possible side effects in about 1 to 10 percent of users. Did your provider ever mention that there is a risk of heart attack with the med and it could be fatal without warning? Or what about the brain fog and other cognitive changes dismissed due to stress, effects of the illness, aging, or other? Is that the appropriate place of blame or is the drug effect?

This information is meant to inform you of risks that may not be brought to your attention. The statistics may seem rather small, but if it is you, it does not matter. You need to be aware of the risks. Drugs are powerful. They force processes in the body to work, often without science fully understanding how deeply physiology is being manipulated until years later. If you have adverse symptoms related with blood sugar changes, chest pain, heart rhythm irregularities, forgetfulness, or other cognitive changes while on your antidepressant meds, you must discuss this with your treating physician. Medications may need to be changed, reduced, or discontinued. Digging deeper into helping the body with these concerns is a top priority.

Antidepressants and the Mitochondrial Connection

One pertinent piece of information that ties much of this together pertains to mitochondria injury induced by oxidative stress, and inflammation. This milieu is present in depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and loss of neurological function. Antidepressants impact mitochondria. To what degree, positive or negative, is still being evaluated throughout medical literature. It is an extraordinarily complex process that may never be fully understood, but we do know this - antidepressants alter energy metabolism and affect mitochondrial processes

Other Adverse Disease Causing Drug Effects

We have witnessed an emergence of adverse drug-effects within several popular medications in the last decade. The adverse drug effects are diverse with a sample of findings below. You can add this new information about antidepressants to your health library.

• Statin Drugs Cause Atherosclerosis and Heart Failure

• Metformin Causes Cell Death, Increases Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

• The Delusion of Bone Drugs

• Bone Drugs Cause Serious Atrial Fibrillation

• Dementia Risk Linked with Common Medications

• Bone Loss Caused by Thyroid Meds and Other Drugs

• Thyroid Meds Increase Risk for Elevated Blood Sugar

• Neurontin and Lyrica are a Death Sentence for Brain Synapses

• Neurontin and Lyrica Adverse Effects: The Saga Continues

• FDA Sleeps While Common Medications Poison the Elderly

• Mitochondria – Drugs that Injure and What Mitochondria Injury Looks Like

• When SSRI’s Fail: Causes of Depression Nutrition for Your Brain

• Depression Solution: Addictive Street Drug or Nutrition?

• Heart Disease and Depression: A Two Way Street?

• Nutrients Help Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health

• TSH Receptor Sites Dysfunctional in Fibromyalgia, Depression, and Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders

• Depression and Stuck Negative Behavior Linked to Impaired Folate

• Teen Sleep Problems Lead to Depression & Drug Abuse

• Atrial Fibrillation, Cardiac Disorders Linked with Mitochondrial Dysfunction

• Metformin Causes Cell Death, Increases Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

• Gluten Intolerance Affects Mood, Balance, Methylation, and Brain Inflammation

• Stress and Adrenals: Restoring the HPA Axis

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