Seroquel Weight Gain: Risks and Precautions

Last Updated: April 23, 2021

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Seroquel (Quetiapine) is an antipsychotic drug for the treatment of various mental health disorders, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Unfortunately, the antipsychotic is known for a broad range of side effects. Among the adverse effects is that it can lead to weight gain. Seroquel weight gain is an issue patients are commonly facing. Discover what causes quetiapine weight gain, how much can be gained, and if losing weight on Seroquel is possible.

Does Seroquel Cause Weight Gain?

Quetiapine is an antipsychotic drug used mainly to treat schizophrenia. Some doctors recommend Seroquel for bipolar disorder as well. Currently, there are more than 600,000 patients who have been successfully treated by Quetiapine around the world.

But does Seroquel cause weight gain? Along with the effects of Seroquel on the conditions mentioned above, the medication poses a risk of body mass gain. According to the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment Journal, quetiapine is believed to have a medium risk of weight gain. This information, however, should not be generalized as different patients have different experiences due to factors other than the medicine’s reactions. Some may experience a more significant body mass increase than others, while some patients may not gain weight at all. On average, it was mentioned that patients gain up to 5 lbs during short-term treatment and up to 8 lbs on the treatment course that is longer than 52 weeks.

How Seroquel Causes Weight Gain

Generally, antipsychotics tend to increase sugar and fat (lipid) levels in the blood. The imbalance of calorie intake and calorie consumption can cause it. While on antipsychotics, the brain stimulates appetite, especially for calorie-intensive foods such as donuts and fast food. Besides, it is common for psychotic patients to suffer from depression. Depression usually results in physical inactivity, which accelerates quetiapine weight gain.

The different ways people can gain weight as a result of quetiapine medication are given as follows:

Cravings

It is often noted that people who use antipsychotics like Seroquel crave foods that are high in sugars and fats.

Woman on Seroquel craves a tasty dessert.

Fast food is the quickest and cheapest option to satisfy these cravings and therefore contributes to Seroquel weight gain the most. In addition to this, sweet treats are also sought after but should be avoided to maintain weight.

Hormonal changes

The drug is believed to tamper with the hormone levels in the body. The alteration of hormones in the body directly impacts the weight that can be gained as a result of taking quetiapine. Seroquel has been found to interfere with the production of the thyroid-stimulating hormone, lowering the levels of (T4) thyroxine and (T3) triiodothyronine in the bloodstream.

Motivational Deficits

Seroquel MOA can lower dopamine levels and therefore result in demotivation, sleepiness, and laziness. This lack of motivation and grogginess can reduce the user’s physical activity resulting in low metabolism and calorie imbalance.

Fat Storage

Seroquel and weight gain connection is sometimes thought to be the result of the body changing the way it stores fat. The user may notice packing on fat in areas of the body that were previously slim. This may be caused by Quetiapine as well.

Slow Metabolism

One of the drug’s impacts on health is slowing a person’s metabolism, which means that even if a healthy diet and an exercise routine are maintained, it is still possible to gain body mass. The degree of severity of this Seroquel side effect varies from person to person. However, it is one of the common reasons people start gaining weight after taking Quetiapine and other similar drugs.

Personal Factors That Influence Quetiapine Weight Gain

There are other factors that determine the amount of weight that can be gained as a result of Seroquel’s treatment. These are differently applicable to every individual and can, therefore, not be generalized. Since they are different for everyone, it may explain why some users gain more than others.

Individual Factors

Genetic makeup is one of the most important factors to consider and also the most personalized one. Quetiapine affects different gene types in different ways, which means that some users may face an immense increase in body mass while others may not find it changing at all.

Other Personal Factors Include:

  • BMI (body mass index)
  • Diet quality
  • Sleep quality
  • Physical activity
  • Stress level

If sleep and diet qualities are well, and there are normal amounts of physical activity, a user will probably gain less than someone with high stress levels and poor sleep and diet quality.

Duration Of Administration

There seems to be a positive relationship between the duration of taking Seroquel and weight gain. The amount of weight a person gains in the first 12 months is the highest, after which the rate of body mass increase significantly slows down. This is because the body gets used to the treatment. However, when the treatment is carried on for an extended period, it is more likely that the user will notice a significant body mass increase over time.

Polytherapy

If patients use Seroquel with other drugs, it is possible that they may interact and exaggerate Seroquel weight gain. Some antidepressants, for example, have the side effect of body mass gain at similar rates to Quetiapine. It is advisable to consult a doctor regarding all the medications that one takes to ensure that this does not happen unless necessary. The doctor can then prescribe the correct antipsychotic drug that suits the patient considering their other medical intake.

Dosage

Most medications have a dose-weight relationship, which implies that increasing the dosage will increase the amount of pounds the user gains. Theoretically, this makes sense because antipsychotics gain control of the brain and nervous system. Increasing the dose should technically increase the control of the medication gains, so if the patient gains pounds on a low dosage, a higher dosage should make the gain even more significant.

Woman-with-quetiapine-pills-and-measuring-tape-on-color-background.

However, it is not true for Seroquel. Patients taking quetiapine are lucky because increasing the dosage has no apparent relationship with an increase in BMI. That being said, it is still true that everyone has a different genetic makeup and is subject to different external conditions, which is why patients taking Quetiapine should still be cautious, consult a doctor and take the prescribed dosage.

Losing Weight on Seroquel: Is It Possible?

Some patients may experience Seroquel weight loss after stopping the medication. Other studies and clinical trials show that Seroquel has a neutral effect on body mass and that the increase in mass is not linked with dosage.

One such study analyzed 134 patients treated with quetiapine as monotherapy with controlled and open-label extension trials. In the beginning, their weight was assessed using the BMI and then again after 18 months. This test showed that no matter what the dose, Seroquel does not cause users to gain a lot. On the contrary, some patients with obesity were noted to have been losing weight on Seroquel during the 18-month trial. It may be because antipsychotic patients are advised to refrain from excessive eating and introduce some physical activity in their routines.

Managing Weight Gained From Quetiapine

The precise reason why antipsychotics lead to body mass gain has not yet been found, which is why there is also no sure shot way of protecting oneself from it. That being said, Seroquel weight gain is usually the result of a calorie imbalance where a person consumes more calories than they burn.

To manage Seroquel and weight gain, the user should maintain regular exercise, preferably more than their normal routine, as antipsychotics slow the body’s metabolism. Also, patients should find cheap and healthy alternatives for fast food. Fast food is the quickest and most affordable way to satisfy calorie cravings. If healthier options are just as readily available, they should be chosen instead. It may be done by making a meal plan.

The best way to tackle this problem of increase in body mass is a complete shift in lifestyles.

Healthy Eating

Ex-patients of Quetiapine who have gained pounds usually try to find a substitute with the help of a doctor. Unfortunately, this is not of much use as the body mass has already been changed.

Woman eating healthy food, salad.

Instead, one should try their best to live a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy. Antipsychotics increase sugar levels in the blood. This is dangerous for the heart and is also why Seroquel and diabetes are often linked. After completing the treatment, users should choose foods that are low in fats, sugars, and cholesterol. It is beneficial for heart and body health.

Regular Exercise

Secondly, daily exercise should be a part of the routine for patients who are tapering off Seroquel. This will help burn extra calories. Daily workouts eventually lead to weight loss, confidence, boost energy, strength, and motivation. All these benefits improve the mental and physical condition of the patient.

In addition, most doctors advise taking Quetiapine before bedtime, as the patient can sleep through the hunger pangs and cravings. This way, one can avoid unnecessary calorie intake. Finally, patients should keep in touch with their healthcare providers and monitor their health condition regularly. Regular medical assessment can prevent not only body mass increase but Seroquel misuse and abuse cases as well.

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Published on: February 19th, 2020

Updated on: April 23rd, 2021

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.