A new study conducted by researchers from Aarhus University found that consumers are more likely to develop depression if they carry excess body fat -- even if it’s just a modest amount.
“Our study also indicated that the location of the fat on the body makes no difference to the risk of depression. This suggests that it is the psychological consequences of being overweight or obese which lead to the increased risk of depression, and not the direct biological effect of the fat,” said researcher Dr. Søren Dinesen Østergaard.
“If the opposite was true, we would have seen that fat located centrally on the body increased the risk the most, as it has the most damaging effect in biological terms.”
Understanding the risk
The researchers utilized two genetic data sets -- the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium and the U.K. Biobank -- to get a better understanding of how extra body fat can increase the risk of consumers developing depression.
After analyzing the information, the researchers ruled out body mass index (BMI) as the only factor, as they explained that it isn’t always the best measure for consumers’ overall health.
“BMI is an inaccurate way of measuring overweight and obesity,” said Dr. Østergaard. “Many athletes with a large muscle mass and a low body fat mass will have a BMI above 25, which is classified as overweight according to the common definition. This obviously doesn’t make much sense.”
As an alternative the researchers decided to “zoom in and look at the specific relationship” between depression and body fat. Ultimately, they learned that excess body fat was closely linked to an increased risk of depression, emphasizing the psychological impact that weight gain can have on consumers.
The researchers hope that a more comprehensive approach is taken to both help fight obesity and inform consumers about the associated risks that go beyond just weight gain.
“As it appears to be the psychological consequences of obesity, such as negative body image and low self-esteem that is the main driving force behind the increased risk of depression, society’s efforts to combat obesity must not stigmatise, as this will probably increase the risk of depression even further,” said Dr. Østergaard. “It is more important to bear this in mind so we can avoid doing more harm than good in the effort to curb the obesity epidemic.”