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Inflammation associated with higher risk of depression

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Inflammation linked to higher depression risk

Researchers know inflammation is linked to a variety of diseases. A blood test known as a C-reactive protein (CRP) and also a marker of inflammatory diseases is now linked to higher risk of depression and psychological distress in new findings published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

The finding comes from an investigation of people in Denmark included in the general population.

Researchers for the study looked at C-reactive protein markers in 73,131 men and women ages 20 to 100 years finding higher risk of psychological distress and depression linked to higher levels of the protein in the bloodstream.

The authors noted higher levels of the inflammatory protein was associated with increased risk for being hospitalized for depression.

"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," the authors conclude.

The finding means low-grade inflammation might increase a person’s risk of depression and may be an important target for treatment.

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Depression is a leading cause of disability that is often difficult to treat. Antidepressants can sometimes make things worse. Patients may have to try a variety of different medications to get relief from symptoms.

C-reactive protein levels can become elevated by any type inflammation in the body. The protein is synthesized by the liver.

Elevated CRP level is associated with a variety of diseases including arthritis, increased risk for heart disease, infection, trauma and cancer. Normal level should be less than 10 mg/L.

Adding anti-inflammatory drugs for treating depression is suggested because drugs like ibuprofen (Advil), Celebrex and other prescription pain medications are known to directly target inflammation as well as pain receptors in the body.

The drugs also carry risks and side effects that might include increased risk for heart disease and gastrointestinal bleeding.

The new study suggests a link between inflammation and depression, but doesn't show that CRP levels cause mental illness. Larger studies would be needed to find out why inflammation increases the risk for depression.

Arch Gen Psychiatry
December 24, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile



Rapid, marked increases in CRP occur with inflammation, infection, trauma and tissue necrosis, malignancies, and autoimmune disorders. It is possible that this rapid increase is related to an allergic response, in which case it is not an autoimmune disorder but a normal reaction to a pathogen. Was the increase in CRP in digested protein, or undigested protein? It is a pity the research did not mention this. If it is undigested, we could look at allergic responses, during which the digestive system is not activated. If the protein is digested we could look at too much protein in the diet. The RDA recommends that we take in 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram that we weigh (or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh. Most people eat way too much protein under the mistaken assumption we need to eat meat (protein)in order to get protein. This leads to on acidic Ph. which could also lead to depression. University of Iowa neuroscientist John Wemmie is interested in the effect of acidic state of the brain. His studies suggest that increased acidity—or low pH—in the brain is linked to panic disorders, anxiety, and depression. The answer to depression is a diet devoid of meats and dairy.
I know - I think it's very preliminary. Not to mention that depression is known to already increase pain response and so many other things which would also lead to elevation of CRP levels. Depression is rarely just that. Also, many people suffer from depression from other health issues - but on the plus side, it was a general population study versus a targeted group, which does open the door for a closer look.