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Diet & exercise could cure depression for some

Image courtesy of Cory Couillard

Depression is estimated to affect 350 million people worldwide. It can cause an individual to suffer greatly, function poorly at work, at school and affect one’s family life. However, the worst side effect of depression is an increased risk of suicide. Sadly, an estimated 1 million people die annually.

“Antidepressants can be an effective form of treatment for moderate-severe depression but are not the first line of treatment for cases of mild depression. They should not be used for treating depression in children and are not the first line of treatment in adolescents, among whom they should be used with caution,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

C-Reactive Protein linked to depression

Two large Danish studies have found high blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) to be associated with an increased risk of psychological stress and depression.  A strong correlation was found between individuals with this common biomarker of inflammation and the occurrence of depression.

The study consisting of over 73 000 adults suggests that low-grade inflammation in the body will contribute to the development of depression.  The findings of the study suggest new treatment options are available for the condition that was thought to be largely associated with genetics, not one’s lifestyle. 

Lifestyle factors were included in the study to see the direct impact they can have on the development of depression.  Factors such as smoking, income, education and other lifestyle indicators were found to have a direct correlation to high CRP levels that increased the likelihood antidepressants use. 

“Irrespective of other factors, we found that basically healthy people with CRP levels above 3 milligrams per liter had a two- to threefold increased risk of depression,” said the lead author, Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a professor of medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

It’s common for individuals who experience depression to feel “not accomplished much” or “should just give up.” These feelings could be associated with another inflammatory biomarker called cytokines.  Cytokines are known to increase the feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Depression itself can also lead to inflammation throughout the body.  This cyclical pattern can possibly describe why the treatment of depression is often difficult. 

CRP is typically checked after surgery, during the treatment of infections and to evaluate the risk of developing a diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

“More research is needed to establish the direction of the association between CRP and depression because this study and others are primarily cross-sectional. The results also support the initiation of intervention studies to examine whether adding anti-inflammatory drugs to antidepressants for treatment of depression will improve outcome,” say the authors of the study.

Depressed on the couch

CRP has been extensively investigated as one of the causes of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.  These conditions have been similarly associated with chronic low-grade inflammation that is caused by a two- to threefold elevated level of several cytokines according to the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The most common causes of low-grade inflammation in the body are caused by physical inactivity and an inadequate diet – two items that you can control. Solving the causes of inflammation will also reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and other chronic diseases that are escalating out of control.  A proper diet and exercise regimen will improve healing and reduce depression.

Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

Facebook: Dr Cory Couillard
Twitter: DrCoryCouillard


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