Gaining Weight? Maybe It’s Your Medicine

If you're gaining weight for no reason or having trouble losing it, check the contents of your medicine cabinet.

By Regina Nuzzo | | March 2012

pills© Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock

If you’re gaining weight for no reason or having trouble losing it, check the contents of your medicine cabinet. Experts don’t fully know why some drugs pack on pounds, says Louis Aronne, MD, a weight-loss expert at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, but your doctor may be able to switch you to a different class or lower dose of a drug. Here, some common weight-gain-causing meds and their smart swaps.

Drugs for: Depression

Could Cause Weight Gain: SSRIs such as paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), citalopram (Celexa)

Skinny Alternative:  Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Aplenzin)

Our Expert Says: Some researchers believe SSRI-style drugs increase appetite. Antidepressants that affect dopamine, such as bupropion, may actually reduce hunger.

Drugs for: High blood pressure, coronary artery disease

Could Cause Weight Gain: Powerful beta-blockers such as metoprolol (Lopressor), atenolol (Tenormin)

Skinny Alternative: Mixed alphaand betablockers such as carvedilol (Coreg)

Our Expert Says: With the single-effect beta-blockers, it can be harder to lose weight, possibly because they reduce metabolic rate.

Drugs for: Allergies

Could Cause Weight Gain: The antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Alka-Seltzer Plus Allergy)

Skinny Alternative: Antihistamines loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zytrec)

Our Expert Says: The alternatives contain different, less potent active chemicals, decreasing the chances that the drugs will boost appetite.

Drugs for: Insomnia

Could Cause Weight Gain: Diphenhydramine (in over-thecounter brands Sominex, Unisom, Nytol)

Skinny Alternative: Zolpidem (in prescription Ambien).

Our Expert Says: Occasionally taking an over-the-counter sleep aid shouldn’t cause weight gain; for everynight help, consider switching to prescription.

Drugs for: Diabetes

Could cause weight gain: Rosiglitazone (Avandia), pioglitazone (Actos), glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase), glipizide (Glucotrol), insulin

Skinny alternatives: Metformin (Fortamet, Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza, Riomet), sitagliptin (Januvia), injectable GLP-1 drugs such as liraglutide (Victoza), exenatide (Byetta), pramlintide (Symlin)

Our expert says: Even some doctors don’t realize that some popular classes of anti-diabetes drugs can lead to extra pounds—which can make diabetes worse.

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