Is There a Connection between Bupropion and Weight Loss?

Debra Barnhart

The fourth most popular antidepressant, bupropion is prescribed for major clinical depression and as a treatment for smoking cessation. Some people who take bupropion for depression experience weight loss as a side effect. The exact connection between bupropion and weight loss is not certain. Despite this fact, studies have been conducted to test the efficacy of bupropion as a treatment for obesity. Weight loss is considered to be a mild side effect of this drug, but there are other severe side effects that should be reported immediately to a physician if experienced.

A doctor should be consulted before embarking on any unconventional weight loss program.
A doctor should be consulted before embarking on any unconventional weight loss program.

Weight gain can be an unwelcome side effect of many anti-depressant drugs. It can also be a symptom of clinical depression. Bupropion, however, seems to cause a large percentage of patients to lose weight. Some studies show that up to 28% of those people taking bupropion experience weight loss. The effects of bupropion and weight loss can be fairly significant, as research indicates a loss of five-pounds on average.

Experts are not entirely certain why weight loss on bupropion occurs. Bupropion side effects can include nausea, vomiting and suppressed appetite, which could certainly account for weight loss, but most people who lose weight on bupropion do not seem to experience these reactions. In certain cases clinical depression can result in weight gain, so some researchers theorize that the treatment of depression can result in weight loss. Many persons welcome the connection between bupropion and weight loss, although for other people the weight loss can be problematic.

Bupropion and weight loss has actually been studied as a treatment for obese people, and some of the results have been promising. In research among 50 obese women who did not have depression, approximately 67 percent of the participants taking bupropion lost a measurable amount of weight compared to only 15 percent for participants taking a placebo. Studies also indicate that the combination of a reduced calorie diet and bupropion can be highly effective in treating obesity. Nevertheless, bupropion is prescribed only as an “off-label” treatment for obesity.

In addition to weight loss, nausea and vomiting, other side effects of bupropion include drowsiness, headache and sleep disturbances. Severe side effects include allergic reaction demonstrated by a rash, hives, or swelling of the toungue or face. Irregular heartbeat, nervousness and changes in the menstrual cycle can also occur. Persons can sometimes experience increased thoughts about suicide too. Any severe side effect, including an extreme weight loss, should be reported immediately to a physician.

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