Controversial Health Topic: Is Depression an Inflammatory Disorder?
by farrahg.js on October 14, 2013 - 4:50am
From 1991 to 2001, the rate of depression more than doubled from 3.3% to 7% of adults today. About 10% of Americans suffer from this disorder. Some experts believe that chronic exposure to cytokines, which are chemicals that fight off harmful organisms and repair damage, from inflammation caused by stress, diet, and environmental toxins, may lower serotonin and contribute to depression, says Charles Raison, MD, associate professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona. Scientists first made the connection in the 1980's when they injected animals with bacteria to trigger inflammation and the animals experienced symptoms of depression such as loss of appetite, lethargy, and avoiding social contact. Dr. Raison and others found that depressed people have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals such as C-reactive protein. Dr. Raison's team gave an infliximab to people with major depression and found that the participants with high levels of C-reactive protein reported great improvement in depression symptoms more than these without inflammation. Inflammation isn’t likely the primary cause of depression, however, experts increasingly agree that it can prolong or worsen it. Treating depression in patients who have high levels of inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs may have a big impact on their mood.