(NaturalNews) A just-completed meta-analysis suggests that physicians should use caution when prescribing antidepressant medications, because they can raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study's authors don't directly conclude that antidepressants are the direct cause, but in reporting their findings in the latest issue of Diabetes Care, the researchers from the University of Southampton said that the use of antidepressants has risen dramatically in recent years, and they are concerned that they could be causing an adverse effect on glucose metabolism. They went on to note that 46.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2011 in the United Kingdom.
The use of antidepressants has also risen dramatically in the United States; a 2011 study found that they are now the third-most widely prescribed group of medications.
Per the online site Medical News Today:
Several studies have shown that antidepressant use is linked to diabetes, but the results have been varied, depending on the methods and numbers involved and also on the types of drugs themselves.
For instance, one study that found a link between antidepressants and risk for type 2 diabetes discovered the risk almost doubled in patients using two types of drugs at the same time: tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
The studies suggest there is a modest effect
As part of their meta-analysis, the research team, led by Dr. Katharine Barnard, examined 22 studies and three previous reviews that focused on any link between antidepressant use and increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Overall, they found that people using antidepressants were simply more likely to have developed the disease.
However, the team said, despite the apparent link, the entire picture is somewhat "confused, with some antidepressants linked to worsening glucose control, particularly with higher doses and longer duration, others linked with improved control, and yet more with mixed results."
In particular, the team noted that while study quality varied, the most recent, larger studies all suggest there is a modest effect.
The researchers proposed that different types of antidepressants could be linked to varying levels of risk. They are calling for long-term, randomized, controlled clinical trials to examine the overall effects of different antidepressants.
The goal of the review was not to investigate causes, the team said, noting there could be a number of reasons and explanations for the link. For example, researchers said some antidepressants tend to cause patients to put on the pounds, which in and of itself boosts risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
"But they also point out that some of the studies they reviewed found the raised risk for type 2 diabetes persisted when they took out the effect of weight gain, suggesting other factors could be involved," Medical News Today reported.
'This potential risk is worrying'
"Our research shows that when you take away all the classic risk factors of type 2 diabetes; weight gain, lifestyle etc, there is something about antidepressants that appears to be an independent risk factor," said Barnard, adding that, in light of the rising prescription rate for antidepressants, "this potential increased risk is worrying."
"Heightened alertness to the possibility of diabetes in people taking antidepressants is necessary until further research is conducted," she said.
Richard Holt, professor in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Southampton and the study's co-author, said: "While depression is an important clinical problem and antidepressants are effective treatments for this debilitating condition, clinicians need to be aware of the potential risk of diabetes, particularly when using antidepressants in higher doses or for longer duration."
He adds that physicians and clinicians prescribing antidepressants should be aware that the increased risk for the patient to develop type 2 diabetes certainly exists, and that patients' conditions should be closely monitored. They should also be encouraged to help reduce their risk by changing their lifestyles.