Link Between Physical and Mental Health: Depression and Aging

elderlyIt has long been claimed that there is a definite link between mental and physical well-being, that our mental state has a heavy impact on our physical welfare.  Now, a new study has possibly actually proven it, vis-à-vis the effect of depression on the aging process.  In a study of over 2,000 individuals documented in Molecular Psychiatry, it seemed that cells looked biologically order in those who were severely depressed, or even those who had dealt with deep depression in their past.  Such visible distinctions could not be attributed to other facts (like smoking, obesity, etc.)

Even though it has long been determined that severe depression can lead to an increase in various diseases (often due to the unhealthy lifestyle that often goes hand-in-hand with depression such as poor diet, alcohol/drug abuse etc.).  But until now it has not been proven that the cells actually look biologically older.

The way the study was conducted was through the measurement of telomeres (cell structures) which are the “caps” at the end of chromosomes that protect DNA during cell division.  What usually happens is that telomeres get a little shorter each time cells divide.  It is thought that their length is an index of a cell’s aging.  It was found that telomeres were shorter in those who had encountered more depression, indicating cellular aging in those with depression is accelerated by several years.

Still, if one is already on the road to aging due to depression, there are things that can be done.  Since people over 50 are more prone to cases of clinical depression. Time and again, studies have shown that depression can actually be prevented with regular physical activity.  The problem is, as people age, it is harder to get moving, thus they don’t, and this leads to potential depression.  It is indeed a potentially vicious cycle.  Still, start moving and keep pushing it.

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In addition, other studies have shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet can prevent – or slow down – the aging brain.  Indeed, according to a study undertaken by Annals of Neurology, such a diet could highly benefit the central nervous system-related axes – and is inversely associated with depression.

So for those suffering from depression, realize the seriousness of the matter but then take actions to change it – it is probably affecting a lot more than you realize.


Fascinating Study Links 5 Disorders

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has just concluded a fascinating study that could revolutionize how doctors look at autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. In their study, they have found that these five disorders share a common genetic root.

As study leader Dr. Jordan Smoller told NBC News, “We have been able to discover specific genetic variants that seem to overlap among disorders that we think of as very clinically different.”

They found markers that were more common in people with one of these disorders than with others. They also found mutations in two genes that help to govern the balance of calcium in the brain cells.

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Scientists came to their conclusions after looking at the genetic code of more than 33,000 patients with mental disorders and 27,888 patients without these issues. It was actually the most comprehensive study on genetic links to psychiatric illness that was ever conducted.

Dr Smoller explained some of the ramifications of the study. As he said, “Significant progress has been made in understanding the genetic risk factors underlying psychiatric disorders. Our results provide new evidence that may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes.”

Fatty Foods Vs. The Blues

A great number of people instinctually reach for the ice cream or chocolate during times of stress, and this phenomenon has been widely attributed to the sweet tooth. However, a recent study has shown that there is more to it.

Fatty foods do grant the consumer a degree of comfort, but not only because they are pleasurable to eat. The digestive system actually sends signals to the brain while digesting these foods, according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the study used MRI scans to map the effects of fatty acids on emotions when they are injected directly into the stomach.

12 volunteers were exposed to sad music and images before receiving fluid through a feeding tube. Some received a dose of fatty acids, and others; a saline solution.

The participants then rated their moods, without discovering which substance they had digested.
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Those given fatty acids proved to be 50% less sad than those who received the saline solution, despite the sad atmosphere.

Lukas van Oudenhove, the scientist who led the research, said “Eating fat seems to make us less vulnerable to sad emotions, even if we don’t know we’re eating fat. We bypassed sensory stimulation by infusing fatty acids directly into the stomach, without the subjects knowing whether they were getting fat or saline.”

The study may have an impact on the studies of obesity, eating disorders and depression.