A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has found that depression affects much more than our mental state, demonstrating, for the first time, why depression should be treated as a systemic disease.
Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) in Spain conducted a meta-analysis of 29 previous studies comprising 3961 people looking for stress markers and oxidative stress levels. Specifically they examined studies reporting on the oxidative stress marker malondialdehyde (MDA) and total nitrites, the antioxidants uric acid and zinc, or the antioxidant-enhancing enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX).
Patients with depression were found to have higher oxidative stress MDA levels, lower antioxidant uric acid and zinc levels, and higher antioxidant-enhancing enzyme SOD levels. (Differences in total nitrites and CAT and GPX were nonsignificant.)
Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the bodies ability to detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization via antioxidants. In other words, too much oxidative stress and not enough antioxidants means the body can’t get rid of harmful substances that can lead to disease.
The results of this work could explain why people suffering from depression have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers and why they tend to die younger than the general population. At the same time, this research could be a step in the right direction towards finding new therapeutic targets for the prevention and treatment of depression.
One upside to this study: researchers also found that with antidepressant treatment, which significantly reduced the severity and number of symptoms of depression, MDA levels were reduced, and uric acid and zinc levels increased to the point that they were indistinguishable from healthy individuals. This means we can be quite optimistic that with proper treatment, those suffering from depression can not only find relief of their depressive symptoms, but also reduce their risk of developing these associated diseases.
The study was lead by Sara Jimenez Fernández, PhD student at the UGR and psychiatrist at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at Jaén Medical Center (Jaén, Spain) with co-authors UGR Psychiatry professors Manuel Gurpegui Fernández de Legaria and Francisco Díaz Atienza, in collaboration with Christoph Correll from the Zucker Hillside Hospital (New York, USA), among others.
Dr. Mike Reed, Nashville based Psychiatrist, specializes in the underlying causes of depression, especially inflammation. To learn more about his expertise and background, please visit his website.