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Weight Loss - Are Obese People Happier Than Thinner Ones?

Society often paints the picture of the happy, jolly overweight person but is this a true picture? Evidence is emerging that people who are obese suffer from depression more often than their thinner counterparts.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry showed that obese people suffer from anxiety and depression 25% more than those of normal weight, although, interestingly enough, they were also 25% less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than those of lesser weight.

If obesity is associated with depression, what causes the obese individual to be depressed? The logical conclusion might be that they're depressed over society's reaction to their obesity. In other words, the reality of being overweight causes the depression. On the other hand, could obesity and depression be caused by some mysterious biochemical pathway that gives rise to both conditions? This may be a real possibility. There's evidence to suggest that obesity and depression may be related in a true physiological sense.

The portions of the brain that control obesity are located in the area of the brain that regulates the interaction between the hypothalamus and pituitary. The pituitary gland receives direction from the hypothalamus with regard to how much of certain types of hormones to produce. The pituitary gland under the direction of the hypothalamus is responsible for producing the "stress hormone" known as cortisol which is also correlated with causing abdominal obesity. Thus high levels of cortisol could cause both obesity and, possibly, symptoms of depression and other mood changes.

One study perform in mice showed that there are certain mice that lack the genetic capability of producing leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells that's known to suppress appetite. When scientists looked closer at this gene, known as "ob", they found that slight variations in the gene structure produced mood changes in the mice ranging from depression to anxiety. It's thought that this gene may not only have an effect on appetite and food intake but also on mood.

On the other hand, it's a known that a negative body image can be linked to a poor self esteem and even frank symptoms of depression. Plus, persons who suffer from obesity often have other health problems which may contribute to their depressive symptoms. Other experts have suggested that the obese person's constant attempts at dieting may bring on the depression they frequently experience.

Could obesity and depression be the product of the same biological pathways? Only time and further research will answer this intriguing question.
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