Study shows that feeling depressed can make you gain almost a pound in weight

Feeling down in the dumps could lead obese people to put on almost a pound in weight, while slim people stay the same size.

Researchers tracked the emotions of more than 2,000 people in the UK for up to nine months.

Each month, people were asked about depressive symptoms, like taking little pleasure in daily activities or feeling bad about themselves.

More than 90 percent of people in the study did not have clinical depression.

But when overweight or obese people felt more depressed generally, they gained weight a month later.

There was no difference for people who were a healthy weight to begin with.

Comfort eating is known to ramp up a gear during bouts of depression, but researchers have now proven that weight gain is likely during episodes of low mood…but only for some

Researchers suspect people who are overweight and obese may be more prone to comfort-eating high-calorie, fatty and sugary foods when they are struggling emotionally.

The study authors gave people a score out of 24 for depressive symptoms, based on their answers to the monthly questions.

A score just five points higher than their ‘usual’ average level of depressive thoughts, for obese people, was linked to an average weight gain of 0.8 pounds.

For overweight people, the same increase in negative feelings was linked to weight gain of 0.6 pounds.

This kind of weight gain could mount up over months or years, the researchers warn.

They suggest slimming classes, and weight loss apps, might want to record how people are feeling as often as their food intake and exercise levels.

Unless you're overweight or obese, comfort eating during episodes of depression is unlikely to have a major effect on your weight, the study showed

Unless you’re overweight or obese, comfort eating during episodes of depression is unlikely to have a major effect on your weight, the study showed

Then people who are struggling could be given tips which might help to lift their mood, like online cognitive therapy, mindfulness, listening to music or gardening, before they reach a point of eating unhealthily and gaining weight.

Dr Julia Mueller, who led the study from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘These findings suggest that people who are living with overweight or obesity are more vulnerable to weight gain in response to feeling more depressed.

‘We know from previous evidence that people who feel depressed can overeat, or eat higher calorie foods with more fat or sugar, or be less likely to go for a walk or take exercise.

‘Weight gain may be seen only in people with a higher BMI because these are people with a genetic predisposition to comfort-eating or who learned to use food as comfort as children.

‘Or it may be the case that they gain weight more easily than people with a lower BMI.

‘We need more research to confirm these results, which could be used to pay more attention to depressive symptoms in people trying to lose weight, so they don’t end up gaining it instead.’

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found depressive symptoms were linked to self-reported weight gain a month later, but weight gain was not linked to depressive symptoms a month later.

This rules out an alternative explanation of weight gain leading to negative feelings, rather than the other way around.

The people the researchers looked at, who were aged 44 to 70 and recruited from doctor’s offices in Cambridgeshire for a recent health study, also answered questions about anxiety and stress.

But these were not linked to weight gain, with researchers speculating that stress and anxiety may cause more intense emotions than depression, like fear and tension, leaving people more likely to lose their appetite than to overeat.