Flashback Friday: Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Depression

Flashback Friday: Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Depression

August 17, 2019 53 By William Morgan


[Music] depression affects more than 150 million people worldwide making it a leading cause of losing healthy years of life as a result of disability fact by 2020 depression may be the second leading cause of healthy years of life lost second only to heart disease why is depression so common well it is said nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution but why would we evolve to get depressed depression poses a baffling evolutionary puzzle if it has such negative effects but yet it remains so common and heritable meaning a big chunk of risk is passed through our genes so there must be some kind of adaptive benefit otherwise presumably it would have been naturally selected against maybe depression is an evolutionary strategy for defense against infection infection has been the leading cause of mortality throughout human history the average life expectancy was 25 and it was not uncommon for half our kids to die with such stark capabilities infection has been a critical impotant driving force in natural selection when we become infected there’s a surge of inflammation as our body mounts a counter attack and then what happens we feel lousy we feel sick we get weak tired slow and sleepy we don’t wanna see anyone we want don’t want to do anything all I want do is sleep it’s like we’re depressed and that’s great for fighting infection not only does it help us conserve energy so we can put up a good fight but reduces social contact we’re not running around infecting everyone it’s the same reason we evolved to think you poop doesn’t smell good or decaying flesh that keeps us safe from infection in fact we see this phenomenon with other social animals like honeybees and mole rats who feel impelled to crawl off and die alone when they get sick which reduces the risk for the rest of the community the relationship between mental health and info was first noted in 1887 for which the only psychiatrist ever when the ward got a Nobel Prize but what evidence have we accumulated in the centuries since that inflammation causes depression well people who are depressed have raised inflammatory markers such as c-reactive protein inflammatory illnesses are associated with greater rates of major depression indeed that’s what’s found in a variety of inflammatory conditions including more kind of benign inflammatory conditions like asthma and allergies and you know that’s important suggesting the the mood symptoms are not simply you know feeling bad about having a terrible disease but you know may be directly tied to the inflammation and most powerfully you can actually induce depression by inducing inflammation like when we give interferon for certain cancers or chronic infections up to 50% go on to suffer major depression even just giving a vaccine caused enough inflammation to trigger depressive symptoms taken together these studies are strongly suggestive of inflammation being a causative factor of mood symptoms so can an anti-inflammatory diet help prevent depression we didn’t know until about 43,000 women without depression were Fault along with their diets for about a dozen years to see who became depressed and it was those who ate a more inflammatory diet pattern characterized by more soda refined grains and meat suggesting that chronic inflammation may underlie the association between diet and depression normally we think of omega-3s as anti-inflammatory but they found fish to be pro-inflammatory associated with increased c-reactive protein levels consistent with recent findings that omega-3 don’t seem to help with either depression or inflammation the most anti-inflammatory diet is plant-based which can cut c-reactive protein levels by 30 percent within two weeks perhaps because of the anti-inflammatory properties of antioxidants I’ve talked about this before but never really explained why antioxidants are anti-inflammatory see oxidative damage caused by free radicals may cause an autoimmune response in the body by changing the chemical structure of otherwise ubiquitous molecules to generate new structures that the body attacks as foreign for example when LDL cholesterol gets oxidized our body creates antibodies against it in attacks it and so clinical depression can be accompanied by increased oxidative stress and the autoimmune inflammatory response it creates free radicals lead to autoimmune inflammation where else does inflammation come from in our diet endotoxins and it’s worth reviewing how the endotoxins in animal products can cause a burst of inflammation within hours of consumption what does it do to our mood if you inject endotoxin into people within a few hours inflammation shoots up and so does feelings of depression as well as feelings of social disconnection between people although previous research has demonstrated that inflammatory activity contributes to depressive symptoms no work in humans says examine the effect of experimentally induced inflammation on anhedonia the lack of reaction to pleasurable stimuli this is an important symptom of depression no work has been done that is until now within hours of endotoxin hitting their bloodstream these experimental subjects not only started to feel depressed but they had significant reductions in activity in the reward center of their brain they were less excited about winning money playing video games for example in this study but by eliminating animal products and eating antioxidant rich diets we may be able to prevent or treat depression [Music] you