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  • Women taking prescription antihistamines weigh 9.7 lbs more than women not taking these drugs

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, July 12, 2018 10:02 am Email this article

    Women taking a prescription H1 antihistamine weighed an average of 9.7 pounds more than women not taking these drugs according to data from the 2005–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).


    Weight: 176 lbs vs 166 lbs

    Women taking these drugs weighed an average of 175.9 pounds compared to 166.3 pounds for those not taking these drugs.

    70% more likely to be overweight

    Women taking these drugs were 21% more likely to be overweight than those not taking these drugs.

    H1 antihistamines include:

    Over-the-Counter H1 antihistamines not accounted for

    The effect on weight may be GREATER than this study reveals

    The effect of H1 antihistamines on body weight may be greater than this study suggests.

    This is because some people in the control group may have been taking over-the-counter H1 antihistamines, however, they did not have any data on over-the-counter use.

    Note: Zyrtec (cetirizine) is also sold over-the-counter.

    BMI: 30.5 vs 28.8

    The average body mass index (BMI) of women taking these drugs was 30.5 (obese) vs 28.8 for women not taking these drugs, a difference of 3 BMI units.

    Age: 47-years-old

    The average age was 47-years-old.

    Most common H1 antihistamines: cetirizine (50%) and fexofenadine (37%)

    “The most prevalent H1 antihistamines used were cetirizine (50%) and fexofenadine (37%),” the paper noted.

    Insulin levels higher in H1 antihistamine users: 114 vs 65 pmol per liter

    “Prescription H1 antihistamine users had significantly higher weight, waist circumference , and insulin levels compared to healthy controls,” they note.

    Insulin levels were higher in men taking H1 antihistamine, however, insulin levels were the same in women taking these drugs versus women not taking these drugs: 66 pmol per liter in the female antihistamine users vs 66 in the non-users.

    “There were no differences in fasting glucose levels, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein- or high- density lipoprotein-cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B levels between groups.”

    The antipsychotic drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) has strong antihistamine properties and is associated with weight gain

    They also note that the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) has strong antihistamine properties and is associated with weight gain.

    “Atypical antipsychotics with potent H1 antagonistic properties are strongly correlated with weight gain. New generation antipsychotics with high antihistaminic properties such as olanzapine induce weight gain.”

    However, this analysis did NOT include anyone taking antipsychotic drugs like Zyprexa (olanzapine), and instead only looked at people taking H1 antihistamines for allergy relief.

    Subjects: 94 men using H1 antihistamines vs 198 men of the same age not using them

    The study included 94 males who reported using an H1 antihistamine.

    They were compared to 198 males matched for age.

    Conclusion: H1 Antihistamines may be causing weight gain

    “Several H1 antihistamines are available without a prescription, so the actual number of individuals in the sample taking an H1 antihistamine is unknown,” the authors note.

    “An estimated 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies, with approximately 35–50% of them using over-the-counter antihistamines; thus, this analysis may be underestimating the impact of antihistamines.

    “Because H1 antihistamines are increasingly accessible, they may be contributing to weight gain and increased development of metabolic syndrome.

    “Although causation cannot be attributed to prescription H1 antihistamine use only based on this cross- sectional analysis, it is imperative to explore the relationship between increased antihistamine use, obesity, and underlying risk factors.”


    Ratliff JC, Barber JA, Palmese LB, Reutenauer EL, and Tek C. Association of prescription H1 antihistamine use with obesity: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2010 Dec; 18(12): 2398-2400.

    Author’s Contact Info

    Joseph Ratliff
    Department of Psychiatry
    Yale University School of Medicine
    New Haven, Connecticut, USA
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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