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The effect of a low-calorie diet on depressive symptoms in individuals with overweight or obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies.

Psychological Medicine 2023 December 13
BACKGROUND: Individuals with overweight or obesity are at a high risk for so-called 'atypical' or immunometabolic depression, with associated neurovegetative symptoms including overeating, fatigue, weight gain, and a poor metabolic profile evidenced e.g. by dyslipidemia or hyperglycemia. Research has generated preliminary evidence for a low-calorie diet (LCD) in reducing depressive symptoms. The aim of the current systematic review and meta-analysis is to examine this evidence to determine whether a LCD reduces depressive symptoms in people with overweight or obesity.

METHODS: Eligible studies were identified through PubMed, ISI Web of Science, and PsycINFO until August 2023. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) were derived using random-effects meta-analyses for (1) pre-post LCD comparisons of depression outcomes, and (2) LCD v. no-diet-control group comparisons of depression outcomes.

RESULTS: A total of 25 studies were included in the pre-post meta-analysis, finding that depression scores were significantly lower following a LCD (SMD = -0.47), which was not significantly moderated by the addition of exercise or behavioral therapy as a non-diet adjunct. Meta-regressions indicated that a higher baseline BMI and greater weight reduction were associated with a greater reduction in depression scores. The intervention-control meta-analysis ( n = 4) found that overweight or obese participants adhering to a LCD showed a nominally lower depression score compared with those given no intervention (SMD = -0.29).

CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence that LCDs may reduce depressive symptoms in people with overweight or obesity in the short term. Future well-controlled intervention studies, including a non-active control group, and longer-term follow-ups, are warranted in order to make more definitive conclusions.

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