Antihistamines May Cause Weight Gain

Summary
Several medicines, including antihistamines, have been shown to have noticeable effects on the regulation of a person’s body weight. Using data from the 2005-2006 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, investigators were able to show that antihistamine usage was probably one of the factors involved in causing obesity in Americans. The people examined in this survey, who were users of prescription H1 antihistamine, were found to have a higher weight, waist circumference, and insulin levels than people not on antihistamines.

Introduction
Currently, approximately 68 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Several research studies, conducted over many years, have investigated those aspects of the American lifestyle contributing to this alarming trend, from food intake levels to workout routines. An estimated 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies, with nearly 35 to 50 percent using over-the-counter antihistamines. Histamines are molecules released by the body, which cause above-normal inflammation in allergic disease. Histamine administration has been shown to reduce food intake in animals, whereas countering histamine with antihistamines has the opposite effect. This study explores the relationship between antihistamine usage, weight gain, and obesity, using data collected during the 2005-2006 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Methodology
* The information gathered from the 2005-2006 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was used to recruit volunteers who had been using prescription H1 antihistamines such as cetirizine and fexofenadine.
* The researchers recruited 268 adult users of H1 antihistamines (174 females and 94 males) and 599 age and gender matched adults (401 females and 198 males) who were not on any medication.
* A medical examination was carried out to check their body weight, height, body mass index (BMI), waist measurement, and levels of fasting plasma glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and apolipoprotein B.

Results
* Prescription antihistamine users were found to have significantly higher weight, BMI, waist circumference and insulin levels, as compared to those who were not on medication.
* Gender and ethnicity did not influence the results.
* For both males and females in the study, the odds of being overweight increased significantly when they were on antihistamines.
* Additionally, use of prescription H1 antihistamines did not increase the odds of having elevated lipids levels.

Shortcomings
The current investigation looked only at data from adult prescription antihistamine users. A significant number of children and teenagers also use prescription antihistamines on a regular basis. Also, the study examined twice as many women as men. Due to the easy availability of over-the-counter antihistamines in drugstores, this investigation is also limited in its scope, as it examines only users of prescription antihistamines. Therefore, a complete picture about whether antihistamine usage is a risk factor in the current obesity “epidemic” cannot be obtained from this study. Researchers also need to firmly establish the exact molecular role played by histamines in regulating metabolic pathways in humans. Nevertheless, the current study does come with a cautionary message relating to antihistamine usage, specifically related to its role in obesity.

Conclusion
A relationship exists between prescription H1 antihistamine usage and the increased risk of obesity in adults from the United States, as can be gauged from the results of the current study. H1 antihistamine users were found to have higher weight, BMI, waist circumference, and insulin levels. However, given the limitations of this study, one should not immediately assume that antihistamine usage will automatically lead to weight gain and related problems. Metabolic syndromes including diabetes and obesity are thought to be caused by a number of risk factors, and antihistamine usage may be just one of them. Further experimentation and data are still needed to confirm the relationship between increased antihistamine use and obesity.

For More Information:
Association of Prescription H1 Antihistamine Usage with Obesity: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
Publication Journal: Obesity, August 2010
By Joseph C Ratliff; Jessica A Barber
From the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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