The Serotonin Power Diet

The Serotonin Power Diet effectively reverses weight gain associated with antidepressant use, Wurtman finds.

For millions of Americans, antidepressants and other mood stabilizing drugs improve quality of life tremendously. For many, though, the benefits come at a hefty price: weight gain, sometimes upwards of 30 pounds or more just within a year. But there is a solution: The Serotonin Power Diet developed by MIT research scientist Judith Wurtman, PhD and her associate, Nina T. Frusztajer, MD.

"To say that such significant weight gain is distressing for these patients who otherwise benefit tremendously from their medications is an understatement, " says Wurtman. "People who never had a weight problem now have a new problem and those who were overweight to begin with find themselves unable to keep their weight from climbing."

Patients on such medications cite increased appetite, increased thirst which is often quenched with calorie-laden beverages, and fatigue which can lead to decreased exercise and increased food intake in a fruitless effort to feel more alert. "Many of our weight loss clients on these medications report eating a full second dinner after the first, or they consume endless pints of ice cream, chips, and bowls of cereal with milk particularly in the afternoon and before bed," described Wurtman.

It's not clear why many antidepressant medications cause weight gain although it is known that these medications increase appetite and food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods. Traditional weight loss approaches which simply cut calories or eliminate most carbohydrates are not only ineffective but they often exacerbate the cravings.

Brain serotonin is the chemical that controls appetite. The brain makes serotonin only after consumption of certain carbohydrates. Although most antidepressant medications work by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain, they do not increase the amount of serotonin present. Somehow, this serotonin-mediated appetite control mechanism is altered with antidepressant medications. It's not a lack of will power associated with these medications but rather that the brain is sending out signals to increase carbohydrate consumption. In most cases, individuals eat too much carbohydrate or the wrong kind or at the wrong times of day.

With its carefully designed meals and snacks, The Serotonin Power Diet restores adequate brain serotonin levels so that appetite and cravings are under control. The net result is less food intake and weight loss. The diet was clinically tested by Dr. Wurtman and her colleagues at the Harvard University weight loss center founded by Dr. Wurtman. "Our clients on the diet were delighted to be eating less yet feeling satisfied and, on top of it, losing weight. Nearly all were relieved that previously forbidden carbohydrates were allowed back into their diets because that's what they craved. Their appetite could not be satisfied without them. With carbs, the pounds come off easily," reports Wurtman.

With The Serotonin Power Diet, it is possible to have your cake and eat it, too.