Body weight, the tumor necrosis factor system, and leptin production during treatment with mirtazapine or venlafaxine

Pharmacopsychiatry. 2002 Nov;35(6):220-5. doi: 10.1055/s-2002-36390.


Weight gain is a frequent and important side effect of psychopharmacotherapy. Recent studies suggest that the fat-cell-derived hormone leptin and the tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) cytokine system are pathophysiologically involved. No information is available concerning the influence of the antidepressants mirtazapine and venlafaxine on these immunoendocrine variables. An open-labeled study was performed in 20 patients suffering from major depression treated with either mirtazapine (N = 11) or venlafaxine (N = 9). During 4 weeks, the patients' weight, body mass index (BMI), and plasma levels of leptin, TNF-alpha, sTNF-R p55, and sTNF-R p75 were assessed. Mirtazapine induced a significant increase in weight (mean weight gain: 2.4 kg) that was evident after the first week of treatment. In parallel, the plasma levels of TNF-alpha and both soluble TNF receptors increased. In addition, a slight rise in leptin levels, which occurred slowly and was significant only at the end of the 4 th week of treatment, was observed. Weight decreased slightly but significantly in patients treated with venlafaxine (mean weight loss: 0.4 kg), whereas plasma levels of leptin, TNF-alpha, or soluble TNF receptors did not change significantly. The present results further support the notion that the activation of the TNF-alpha cytokine system is an early, sensitive, and specific marker of weight gain induced by psychotropic agents. In contrast, the effects of such drugs on leptin production seem to be less sensitive with respect to weight gain and more variable.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cyclohexanols / adverse effects*
  • Cyclohexanols / pharmacology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptin / biosynthesis*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mianserin / adverse effects*
  • Mianserin / analogs & derivatives
  • Mianserin / pharmacology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mirtazapine
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Cyclohexanols
  • Leptin
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Mianserin
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride
  • Mirtazapine