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PTSD Might Lead to Sizable Weight Gain in Women

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Posted November 22, 2013

Women with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to be overweight or obese than women without the condition, a new study suggests.

According to the researchers, one in nine women will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in her life. That’s twice as often as men. Women are more likely to experience traumatic events, such as rape, which carry a high risk for PTSD, the study authors said.

“PTSD is not just about mental health, but also has physical health consequences,” said lead researcher Karestan Koenen, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.

Women with PTSD gain weight faster than women who do not have the condition, Koenen said. “This, in turn, has consequences for the risk of heart disease and all the adverse outcomes associated with obesity,” she said.

How PTSD is linked to weight gain isn’t known, Koenen said, but it may be caused by the high levels of hormones released because of stress.

These hormones are involved in a range of body processes, including metabolism, she said.

“In addition, women with PTSD may change behaviors that lead to obesity,” Koenen said. “There is evidence that people under stress crave high-calorie processed foods, so it could be diet.” These women also are less likely to exercise, she said.

Koenen said the same problem may exist in men suffering from PTSD, but this hasn’t been well studied.

The new report was published Nov. 20 in the online edition of the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Read more at: MedlinePlus

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