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Can You Lose Weight with Wellbutrin? Does Wellbutrin Help with Weight Loss?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975. In 2016, about 1.9 billion people ages 18 and older were obese.
Of these, 650 million were obese. In other words, over 39% of all adults in the world were overweight while obesity affected 13%. The rates of overweight and obesity are on a constant rise, but causes are numerous. Sedentary lifestyle, certain health conditions, even medications can make people gain weight.
That said, some medications can lead to weight loss, too. Wellbutrin, antidepressant, is widely praised for its ability to support weight loss, but is that true?
You’ll find the answer below.
What is Wellbutrin?
Wellbutrin (generic name bupropion) is a medication formulated to treat the major depressive disorder.
The medication is also known by other names such as Alpenzin, Buproban, Zyban, Budeprion XL, and others.
Besides major depressive disorder, Wellbutrin can address depression associated with the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and act as a smoking cessation agent that helps people ditch this bad habit.
In order to use Wellbutrin, it needs to be prescribed by a healthcare provider. In fact, it is one of the most frequently prescribed medications for depression and SAD in the United States and Canada.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is defined as a type of depression that is strongly associated with weather/season changes.
The condition begins and ends at the same time each year. Symptoms tend to emerge in the fall, continue in winter months, and go away in spring or summer. Rare are the instances when SAD occurs in a warm period of the year.
While many antidepressants cause weight gain, Wellbutrin is well-known for its ability to promote weight loss in patients who take this drug.
Does it really work?
Wellbutrin and weight loss
One of the most commonly discussed aspects of Wellbutrin is its influence on weight loss. But, we start discussing how effective the drug really is, it’s important to clarify that Wellbutrin is not a regular weight loss pill.
It’s not a fat burner or appetite suppressant you can buy and order online, but a medication that your doctor will prescribe only if there is a need for it.
Still, it’s impossible not to ask ourselves does Wellbutrin work, many scientists did the same and they conducted several studies on this subject over the years.
Gadde K.M. et al carried out a study whose primary objective was to investigate the efficacy and tolerability of this drug in overweight and obese adult women. They enrolled 50 overweight and obese ladies who had to take either Wellbutrin or placebo for eight weeks.
In addition to drug/placebo, all women were prescribed a 1600 kcal/d balanced diet and were asked to use food diaries whose purpose was to show whether they adhered to the eating program. In Wellbutrin group, dosage at the onset of the study was 100 mg/d and it increased gradually to 200 mg/d twice a day.
Results, published in the Obesity Research, found that participants who received the drug achieved greater weight loss over eight weeks than subjects in the placebo group. In fact, 12 of 18 subjects or 67% from Wellbutrin group lost over 5% of their baseline body weight while only 2 of 13 women from placebo group did the same.
During the continuation phase, 14 Wellbutrin users took the drug for 24 weeks and lost 12.9% weight + 5.6% with fat. The drug was well-tolerated and did not induce some significant adverse reactions.
Therefore, scientists concluded that bupropion or Wellbutrin is more effective than placebo in achieving weight loss.
July 2002 issue of Obesity Research published yet another study that investigated the potential link between Wellbutrin SR and weight loss. The 24-week research enrolled 327 obese participants. Of these, 227 completed all 24 weeks of study period while 192 were monitored for 48 weeks. Subjects were randomized to two groups where one received Wellbutrin of 300 or 400 mg/day while the second group received placebo.
Participants who completed 24 weeks of the study succeeded losing weight. The placebo group lost 5% of initial body weight while subjects who received Wellbutrin 300 or 400 mg/day lost 7.2% and 10.1% respectively.
In addition, participants who were monitored for 48 weeks successfully maintained mean losses of initial body weight of 7.5% and 8.6% for 300 and 400 mg/day respectively. Like the above-mentioned research, this study also showed that Wellbutrin was well-tolerated.
In October 2002, Jain A.K. et al published their own study on this subject in the same journal. The study focused on the effects of Wellbutrin on weight loss in obese adults with depressive symptoms. Although they experienced depressive symptoms, participants didn’t meet all criteria to be diagnosed with depression.
Results showed that 193 participants from the Wellbutrin group lost on average 4.4kg (9.7lbs) compared to average 1.7kg (3.7lbs) weight loss in the placebo group. Also, more patients in Wellbutrin group lost over 5% of their initial body weight compared to their counterparts who received placebo.
Depressive symptoms also decreased. These findings indicate that Wellbutrin not only promotes better mood and relieves symptoms of depression, but it also aids weight loss.
While many studies confirmed the positive relationship between Wellbutrin use and weight loss, some didn’t find any link between the two. Koshino Y. et al carried out a study to inspect the efficacy of this drug in 454 patients with the major depressive disorder.
Interestingly, the study found that participants who took the drug experienced no significant changes in regard to sexual dysfunction, weight change, and withdrawal syndrome.
In April 2016, the Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology published a review that evaluated current evidence on the efficacy of Wellbutrin in the treatment of depression and SAD. Patel K. et al also analyzed other effects of this drug i.e. benefits that go beyond the initial purpose of the medication. One of the analyzed effects included weight loss.
Their analysis included 14 studies with a total of 8137 participants with the major depressive disorder. Duration of the studies ranged from 6 to 52 weeks. Interestingly, a vast majority of the reviewed data concurred there was a significant weight loss in Wellbutrin-treated patients.
Only a few studies found no relationship between the drug and weight loss. Two long-term studies lasting for 52 weeks confirmed that the drug can help users slim down, without weight fluctuations, and side effects.
Yet another interesting study on this subject was published in April 2016. The Journal of Clinical Medicine featured a study whose primary objective was to examine the relationship between antidepressant treatment and weight change.
For this purpose, Arterburn D. et al followed “adult patients with a new antidepressant treatment episode between January 2006 and October 2009.” Results showed that bupropion or Wellbutrin is the best initial choice of antidepressant for a vast majority of Americans who have depression and are also overweight or obese.
What’s more, the study revealed that Wellbutrin is the only antidepressant linked to weight loss over two years. Other antidepressants are usually associated with weight fluctuations and most patients end up gaining weight while using them. Interestingly, patients who took this drug ended up weighing 7lbs less than did their counterparts who took fluoxetine (Prozac).
How does Wellbutrin aid weight loss?
As seen above, a growing body of evidence confirms that Wellbutrin aids weight loss, unlike other antidepressants that lead to weight gain.
But, how does it help patients slim down? One theory is that a common consequence of the regular use of Wellbutrin is a loss of appetite. As a result, patients don’t eat as much as they used to. Reduced calorie intake eventually leads to weight loss.
Another potential explanation behind weight loss is a successful treatment of depression and depressive symptoms. This is particularly important if we bear in mind that depressed individuals are at a higher risk of obesity than non-depressed counterparts.
Sometimes weight loss occurs due to factors that aren’t related to the drug itself. For example, while taking Wellbutrin, patients must never take alcohol.
Alcoholic beverages tend to deliver extra calories which, combined with high-calorie intake via food, lead to weight gain. This way, lower calorie intake combined with alcohol abstinence can aid weight management.
Who should use Wellbutrin for weight loss?
Wellbutrin is not a regular weight loss pill, as seen above. It’s not a capsule you take every day to burn fat at a higher rate or to decrease your appetite primarily.
If you want to achieve those specific effects, you can benefit from natural weight loss pills.
Instead, this drug is a prescription-based medication which means your doctor needs a precise reason to prescribe it.
While the initial purpose of Wellbutrin is to treat depression and SAD, it can also help patients with:
- Body set point malfunction i.e. individuals who experience difficulty losing weight and keeping it off
- Emotional eating problems
- Obesity, depression, and anxiety at the same time
- Severe food cravings i.e. inability to resist food
Do you notice anything in the examples mentioned above?
All of them involve a psychological component. In fact, they can be linked with depression too.
Depression isn’t just a common feeling of sadness, but a disease with both physical and psychological symptoms. Patients experience a change in appetite, weight, body image, and all these things dictate your relationship with food.
According to Drugs.com, you shouldn’t take Wellbutrin if you have:
- Seizure disorder
- Anorexia, bulimia, or some other eating disorder
- Suddenly stopped using seizure medication, alcohol, sedatives such as Xanax, Valium, and others
The best thing to do is to consult a healthier provider who will inform you whether you could benefit from Wellbutrin or not.
Your physician is the one who recommends an adequate dosage which you should follow religiously.
One should never increase or decrease dosage based on their preferences. Approximate weight loss aided by Wellbutrin is between 2% and 10% of the initial body weight you had before started taking the drug.
Tips for successful weight loss
- Keep a food journal in order to identify weaknesses you need to fix
- Eat a well-balanced diet based on fruits, vegetables, and other foods with high nutritional value
- Consume fiber-rich foods because they suppress appetite
- Exercise regularly; not only does physical activity aid depression management, but it’s an excellent weight loss method
- Manage stress
- Make sure your thyroid is working properly
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
- Never go food shopping hungry
- Stay hydrated throughout the day
Wellbutrin is one of the most frequently prescribed antidepressants and unlike other drugs of this type, it doesn’t cause weight gain.
In fact, Wellbutrin is aids weight loss.
Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of this drug for weight loss, but it is important to consult your doctor before you seek a prescription.
The drug is more suitable for individuals with depression, SAD, anxiety, and other similar problems rather than general public i.e. healthy men and women who want to slim down.