Most antidepressants are associated with weight gain, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Zoloft, a popular Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antidepressant medication, may cause weight loss in some patients.
With millions of adults suffering from common mental health conditions and mood disorders like depression and anxiety each year, many turn to prescription treatments like Zoloft for relief.
When it comes to Zoloft and weight loss, here’s everything you need to know.
Zoloft is a brand name prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Zoloft is an antidepressant drug that is also sold under the generic name of its active ingredient, sertraline.
The medication is used to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Zoloft and other medications in its drug class work to treat depression and anxiety by preventing the reabsorption of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that helps transmit messages between the brain cells.
People who suffer from common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are believed to have low levels of serotonin in the brain.
By blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, the levels of the neurotransmitter increase, which is thought to result in improved mood.
Antidepressants, including Zoloft, are most commonly associated with weight gain.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that Zoloft may actually be associated with weight loss in some situations.
One study found that patients who were taking Zoloft for depression and who were overweight lost anywhere from 0.42 pounds per week to 1.06 pounds per week; one participant in the study lost a total of 69 pounds over 36 weeks.
However, Zoloft is typically associated with short term weight loss as compared to long term weight loss.
Most people take Zoloft for an extended period of time in order to treat depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, and over time, this weight loss can begin to slow.
In fact, weight gain is a common side effect of Zoloft, particularly when the medication is taken over an extended period of time.
Compared to other antidepressants, Zoloft has actually been shown in some studies to be more likely to add extra pounds. When compared to patients who are taking Prozac, Zoloft users were found to gain an average of 5.9 pounds over the course of two years, which is higher than the amount of weight gained by patients taking Prozac.
It is believed that the weight loss caused by Zoloft occurs because some patients experience short term appetite suppression when they first start taking the drug. However, patients should not expect to continue to experience weight loss if they take the medication for a long period of time, as the more common side effect of the drug is moderate weight gain.
What side effects are associated with Zoloft?
Zoloft, like other medications in its class, is associated with a considerable list of side effects. Side effects associated with Zoloft generally fall into two categories: common adverse effects and rare but serious ones.
Common side effects associated with Zoloft include:
- Trouble sleeping/tiredness
- Upset stomach
- Sexual dysfunction including low libidio, delayed or inability to orgasm, erectile dysfunction, in men
- Weight gain
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
Rare but serious side effects associated with Zoloft include:
- Angle-closure glaucoma
- Serotonin syndrome, as evidenced by shivering, severe muscle tightness, confusion, fever and more
- Low sodium blood levels, as evidenced by weakness, difficulty concentrating and remembering
While serious side effects associated with Zoloft are rare, they require immediate medical treatment.
If you experience any of the aforementioned serious side effects of Zoloft while using the medication, make sure to seek emergency medical treatment.
Patients should also seek medical treatment if they experience any of the common side effects of Zoloft in a severe form or over an extended period of time, as these side effects typically resolve within several weeks as your body adjusts to the medication.
Some patients taking Zoloft for the treatment of common mental health conditions like depressive symptoms and anxiety may experience short term weight loss as a result of the loss of appetite that sometimes occurs as a patient’s body adjusts to the medication.
However, when taken for the long term treatment of mental health conditions, Zoloft is more commonly associated with weight gain; one study found that Zoloft users gain an average of 5.9 pounds over the course of two years of treatment.
References, Studies and Sources:
Zoloft – Sertraline Hydrochloride Tablet. DailyMed. January 15, 2023. Accessed June 12, 2023. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=fe9e8b7d-61ea-409d-84aa-3ebd79a046b5
Meyerowitz W, Jaramillo J. Sertraline treatment and weight loss. Current Therapeutic Research. 1994;55(10):1176-1181. doi:10.1016/s0011-393x(05)80258-9 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0011393X05802589
Mental health conditions: Depression and anxiety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 14, 2022. Accessed June 12, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html.
Arterburn D, Sofer T, Boudreau DM, et al. Long-Term Weight Change after Initiating Second-Generation Antidepressants. J Clin Med. 2016;5(4):48. Published 2016 Apr 13. doi:10.3390/jcm5040048 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4850471/
Cowen PJ, Browning M. What has serotonin to do with depression?. World Psychiatry. 2015;14(2):158-160. doi:10.1002/wps.20229 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471964/
Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; February 13, 2023. Accessed June 12, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547689/
Antidepressants. MedlinePlus. January 26, 2022. Accessed June 12, 2023. https://medlineplus.gov/antidepressants.html.