Obesity Links PTSD and Diabetes Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jeff Scherrer, Ph.D. Associate professor; Research director Department of Family and Community Medicine Saint Louis University Center for Health Outcomes Research

Dr. Scherrer

Jeff Scherrer, Ph.D.
Associate professor; Research director
Department of Family and Community Medicine
Saint Louis University Center for Health Outcomes Research 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The rationale for this study comes from evidence that patients with PTSD are more likely to be obese than persons without PTSD and have more difficulty losing weight.

Given the obesity epidemic and substantial role of obesity in risk of type 2 diabetes, we sought to determine if obesity accounted for the existing evidence that PTSD is a risk factor for incident type 2 diabetes.  Other studies have adjusted for obesity or BMI in models that control for obesity/BMI and other confounders simultaneously which prohibits measuring the independent role of obesity on the ass

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: PTSD was significantly associated with incident type 2 diabetes but after adjusting for obesity this association was markedly reduced and no longer significant.  This suggests obesity moderates the PTSD – incident type 2 diabetes association.  The age adjusted incidence of diabetes in patients with PTSD who were not obese (5.8/1000 PY) was similar to the incidence of diabetes in non-obese patients without PTSD (5.8/1000PY) and similar to national estimates for persons in the United States.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Decades long literature suggests PTSD is a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, however it is critical to determine if this risk is independent of traditional risk factors that might be more common among patients with PTSD.

Reducing risk of diabetes in patients with PTSD is similar to steps taken for the general patient population, which begins with weight control.  Additional studies are warranted to determine if PTSD remains an independent risk factor for other health outcomes or alternatively if health behaviors prevalent in this patient population, smoking, poor diet and exercise, might account for increased risk of chronic disease.


Scherrer JF, Salas J, Lustman PJ, et al. The Role of Obesity in the Association Between Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Incident Diabetes. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 08, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2028


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