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Know the 7 Medication Types that Can Secretly Cause You to Gain Weight

Tim Boyer's picture
Medication that cause Weight Gain

As we grow older, our bodies tend to gain weight. Aside from overeating or eating the wrong types of foods, typical reasons for weight gain include a slower metabolism, changing hormonal levels, less activity with a more sedentary lifestyle, increased joint and muscle aches and pains―all of which are part of the normal aging process. However, another lesser-realized cause of weight gain for many may be due to their daily medications.

How some medications cause weight gain is not always clearly understood. Furthermore, one medication might cause significant weight gain in one person, but have little to no weight gain effect on another. Experts state that weight gain can be a side effect of some medications that exerts its weight gaining abilities by one of any number of possible routes such as:

• Stimulating appetite or strong cravings for certain foods
• Slowing down metabolism
• Increasing fluid retention
• Inducing feelings of lethargy that are often described by patients as the common complaint of “feeling tired all of the time.”

One example of weight gain with medication is taking insulin to treat diabetes. When insulin levels are off as is sometimes the case in some patients on a periodic basis, it can lead to chronic hypoglycemia which in turn can stimulate appetite and result in overeating or eating the wrong type of foods. Blood pressure medications are another source that can induce fatigue in some patients and interfere with their level of physical activity.

In the current issue of Consumer Reports on Health, health experts list 7 categories of medications that can secretly cause you to gain weight. A listing of the medication types, example medications and alternative medications you can take that are less likely to cause weight gain is provided below:

Weight gain medication category #1: Allergy drugs

Example―Diphenhydramine (Benadryl allergy)

Alternatives―Cetirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex), fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin).

Weight gain medication category #2: Antidepressants

Examples―Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and imipramine (Tofranil) and mirtazapine (Remeron)

Alternative―Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

Weight gain medication category #3: Antihypertensives

Examples―Alpha blockers such as prazposin (Minipress) and terazosin (Hytrin)

Alternative―Thiazide diuretics

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Weight gain medication category #4: Diabetes meds

Examples―Sulfonylureas such as chlorpropamide (Diabinese) and glyburide (Glynase) and with thiazolinediones like pioglitazoine (Actos)

Alternative―Metformin (Glucophage)

Weight gain medication category #5: Nerve-pain & seizure meds

Example―Pregabalin (Lyrica)

Alternative―Topiramate (Topamax)

Weight gain medication category #6: Psychiatric meds

Examples―Aripiprazole (Abilify), clozapine (Clozaril), alanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and ziprasodone (Geodon)

Alternative―Alternatives depend on what the condition is used for, discuss alternative options with your physician

Weight gain medication category #7: Steroids

Examples―Cortisone (Cortone), dexamethasone (Decadron), hydrocortisone (Cortef) and prednisone (Deltasone)

Alternative―Alternatives depend on why the steroid was prescribed; discuss alternative options with your physician

Accurately attributing weight gain to a medication is problematic in that more often than not the weight gain is gradual as opposed to a sudden onset. If you suspect that one of your medications may be causing your weight gain, one solution is to go to your primary care physician with your concerns and ask him to chronologically chart out your weight with the initial prescription and any dosage changes of all of your medications to see if there is a correlation between a prescription and an unexplained up-tic in your weight graph.

For an informative article about one prescription drug that may be causing your weight gain, clink on the following link to an article titled, “Cause of fatigue might be on your prescription list.”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: Consumer Reports on Health (February 2013); “Drugs that can affect weight”