Does HIV Make You Lose Weight?

HIV-positive women are more likely to be overweight or obese than women living with HIV who are not on medication.

In the United States, more than half of adults aged 18 to 64 are either overweight or obese. This figure rises to 70% among adults aged 50 to 64. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing many serious health problems. It is also considered a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, being overweight or obese can make you more susceptible to illnesses such as influenza and pneumonia. It is thus not surprising that so many people living with HIV are at risk of developing obesity-related illnesses.

The question is: does HIV contribute to weight gain? And if so, how can you fight it?

HIV-Related Factors That Make You Gain Weight

There are several factors that put people with HIV at a higher risk of obesity. These factors include:

  • poor diet
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • hormone therapy (HT)
  • and/or
  • antiretroviral therapy (ART)

Let us look at each of these factors in more detail.

Poor Diet

The majority of people living with HIV are considered to be at higher risk of becoming obese due to poor diet. Inadequate food intake combined with an inactive lifestyle can lead to weight gain. However, a specific food diet alone cannot make up for the deficit in your daily calorie intake. You need to improve your diet to reduce your risk of obesity. The best diet for AIDS patients is a combination of reduced fat and carbohydrate intake, and an increase in intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Sedentary Lifestyle

An important factor that puts people with HIV at a higher risk of obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity may increase your body’s demand for vitamin D, resulting in you needing to take extra vitamin D supplements. Furthermore, the sedentary lifestyle may cause you to lose muscle mass and thereby reduce your metabolic rate. A reduced metabolic rate can make you gain weight even if you eat the best food available.

You need to get out and about more. Even a short walk can enhance your daily activity level and provide you with a healthy dose of vitamin D. You may also consider investing in a bike, as it is both a form of exercise and transport. You may also consider joining a gym or taking up a sport.

Hormone Therapy (HT)

Another factor that makes you gain weight is hormone therapy (HT). This is mostly applicable to women with HIV, as menopausal women and postmenopausal women are at a higher risk of developing obesity. HT naturally causes you to gain weight, and when combined with the other factors listed above, it can further promote weight gain in people with HIV.

Weight gain due to HT can be mild to moderate in women, but it can also be quite rapid. Rapid weight gain due to HT is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, women who develop diabetes as a result of HT are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as well.

In short, hormone therapy can do a number of things to your body, some good, and some bad. The key thing is to know what it is that you are taking, and how much of it you should be taking. The best way to reduce your risk of developing obesity is to stop taking hormones, or change your dose significantly if you are already taking them. Some of the more common types of hormone therapy that cause weight gain include:

  • estrogen
  • progestogen
  • a combination of the two
  • testosterone

If you are already taking hormones, then it may be difficult to stop taking them. In this case, you may consider speaking to your doctor about alternative treatments. Or if you are a woman suffering from amenorrhea (which occurs when your body does not produce enough eggs to sustain pregnancy), then you may consider trying a low-dose birth control pill to see if this helps you to gain weight.

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is another factor that puts people with HIV at a higher risk of obesity. This is mainly due to the increase in life expectancy that ART has enabled. However, as more people live with HIV longer, obesity is becoming a growing concern. ART suppresses your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections. Furthermore, it can cause you to gain weight even if you eat the best food available. This is mainly due to the fact that it interferes with vitamin A absorption. Vitamin A is important for the function of your immune system and for maintaining a healthy weight.

Many people believe that the best way to fight the weight gain resulting from HIV is via exercise and a healthy diet. However, these are easier said than done. It is not always possible to follow a healthy diet plan, and getting your body active can be difficult if you are battling HIV.

In general, it is not advisable to start ART without first controlling your weight. This is because it can cause you to gain a large amount of weight, and it takes time for this weight to come off once you have started ART.

Other Factors

There are several other factors that make people with HIV at a higher risk of obesity. These include:

  • family history of obesity
  • being a woman
  • older than 40
  • and/or
  • BMI over 30
  • depression
  • and/or
  • diabetes
  • and/or
  • high blood pressure

It is also worth noting that people with HIV are at a higher risk of becoming obese if they are from an ethnic group with a higher occurrence of the condition. This is mainly due to genetic factors. However, there is also evidence to suggest that people with HIV from certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk of developing specific types of infections, such as neuro-cristy meningitis. This is mainly due to living in a sub-Sahara African environment where clean water and hygiene are limited.

It is quite important for people with HIV to be aware of the risk factors that make them gain weight. This will help them to take control of their lives and minimize the chances of developing obesity-related illnesses. Furthermore, those who are already at a higher risk can start exercising and following a healthy diet to help them combat this issue. Remember, it is never too late to be fit!