People who suffer from depression seem to experience more oxidative stress and inflammation than others. A diet high in anti-oxidants, fermentable fiber and low in saturated and transfats may protect against inflammatory stress in the brain and elsewhere. More research needed. The topic is under investigation.
We recently posted an article about the role of oxidative and nitrosative stress and depression. Oxidative and nitrosative stress can cause inflammation and damage to cells. Depression is associated with brain shrinkage, impaired memory, loss of cognitive abilities and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There are probably more too. People who are depressed tend to have poorer defense against oxidative damage. Anti-oxidant and selenium levels also tend to be lower. Are the anti-oxidants used up by heavy demand? Or are people who are depressed less likely to eat well? The answer could be both.
Depression and anti-oxidants
People who are depressed tend to have lower zinc, coenzyme Q10, vitamin E and glutathione than people who are not depressed. These nutrients and biomolecules protect cells against lipid peroxidation, DNA damage, mitochondrial damage, and damage to proteins that occur with oxidative or nitrosative stress. Nitrosative stress can result in addition of unwanted nitrogens to proteins. This can change their structure and may trigger the immune system to attack them. This type of damage may be related to the development of auto-immune disorders.
Can increasing anti-oxidants and reducing inflammation decrease depression?
Researchers aren’t sure of the answer yet, but the possibility is under investigation. If this turns out to be the case a change in diet and an aspirin might be helpful in treating depression. Indeed, some researchers are trying to develop a depression diet that they hope will help alleviate depression or protect those at risk.
What might an anti-depression diet look like?
An anti-depression diet would probably be high in anti-oxidants. This would mean lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. It might also mean more dietary fiber. Dietary fiber as a cancer protectant has not proven to be as powerful as hoped. However, some forms of dietary fiber contribute to anti-oxidant status when they are metabolized by gut microbiota. An anti-depression diet should also probably be low in transfat (same for everyone btw) and low in saturated fatty acids. Studies of mice fed diets high in saturated fatty acids have shown higher levels of brain inflammation than mice fed standard diets. Scary add-on here: Mother mice fed a diet high in saturated fatty acids also produced off-spring that had higher levels of inflammation, even when they were fed a standard mouse diet. The thought that maternal diet could predispose offspring to depression or other cognitive disorders is frankly scary. It’s hard for people who are severely depressed to take care of themselves. But improving diet might be worth a shot. NOTE: this article is meant to stimulate discussion and provide information. Contact your health care provider for medical advice.
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Maes M, Kubera M, Leunis JC, & Berk M (2012). Increased IgA and IgM responses against gut commensals in chronic depression: further evidence for increased bacterial translocation or leaky gut. Journal of affective disorders, 141 (1), 55-62 PMID: 22410503
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