The effects of antipsychotic medications on microbiome and weight gain in children and adolescents

BMC Med. 2019 Jun 19;17(1):112. doi: 10.1186/s12916-019-1346-1.


Background: Atypical antipsychotics, also known as second-generation antipsychotics, are commonly prescribed as treatment for psychotic disorders in adults, as well as in children and adolescents with behavioral problems. However, in many cases, second-generation antipsychotics have unwanted side effects, such as weight gain, potentially further increasing risk for morbidities including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. While various mechanisms for this weight gain have been proposed, including effects on metabolic hormone signaling, recent evidence points to the importance of the gut microbiome in this process. The microbial communities residing within the gut are affected by second-generation antipsychotics and can confer weight gain.

Main text: This review summarizes recent findings and presents data linking second-generation antipsychotics, gut microbiota alterations and weight gain. The review focuses on children and adolescent populations, which have not previously received much attention, but are of great interest because they may be most vulnerable to gut microbiome changes and may carry long-term metabolic effects into adulthood.

Conclusions: We present correlations between second-generation antipsychotics, gut microbiota alterations and weight gain, and suggest some mechanisms that may link them. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms may lead to the design of improved treatments for psychotic disorders with fewer harmful side effects.

Keywords: Adolescents; Antipsychotic drugs; Microbiome; Second-generation antipsychotics; Weight gain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Antipsychotic Agents