TRANS-FATS LINKED TO INCREASED DEPRESSION RISK
Findings Have Major Implications for Americans
Trans-fats have already been linked to cardiovascular disease, but now a study has linked the consumption of trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans-fats to an increased risk for depression. However, olive oil, monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs appear to have a protective effect and lower the depression risk.
Spanish investigators from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria found that compared with their counterparts who consumed diets low in MUFAs, individuals with elevated levels of trans-fats had a 48% increased risk for depression. Researchers suggest cardiovascular disease and depression may have some common nutritional determinants.
“Depression affects more than 150 million people worldwide. However, relatively few studies have analyzed the effect of diet on this disease,” said Dr. Sánchez-Villegas PhD lead study author. She added that several previous studies have suggested a link between cardiovascular disease and depressive disorders via inflammatory, endothelial, or metabolic processes.
The investigators noted that this is the first cohort trial to assess “such a broad spectrum of fat subtypes in relation to depression risk.”
“The adverse effects of trans-fatty acids on cardiovascular disease are thought to be mediated by increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines and endothelial dysfunction. We decided to analyze the possible association between trans-fatty acids and depression because low-grade inflammatory status and endothelial dysfunction are common among depressed patients,”
“On the other hand, olive oil contains some bio-active polyphenols with important anti-inflammatory properties. This anti-inflammatory capacity…could also improve the function of the endothelium.”
Dr. Sánchez-Villegas explained.
The researchers evaluated data on 12,059 university graduates (mean age, 37.5 years; 58% female) from the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) project, an ongoing study initiated in 1999 to assess the effect of several dietary factors and lifestyle variables on chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and depression.
Questionnaires were mailed biannually to all SUN participants. Those selected for this analysis completed at least the baseline questionnaire and 1 follow-up questionnaire before May 2010. Participants were queried about intake of fatty-acids, PUFAs, TFAs, MUFAs, olive oil, seed oils, butter, and margarine. They were also asked about medical, socio-demographic, and lifestyle variables.
None of the participants had been diagnosed as having depression before the start of the study. They were classified as new cases of depression if, at follow-up, they reported they had been diagnosed as having the disorder or had initiated therapy with antidepressants.
Results showed that 657 new cases of depression were identified during a median follow-up time of 6.1 years.
“The magnitude of this association was robust and persistent results did not substantially change after adjusting for potential lifestyle or dietary con-founders, including adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern,” investigators report.
“The finding regarding the [TFA] is of particular importance. There are no data that I’m aware of to date that have actually looked at its intake and risk of mental health problems,”
“I think this adds to the body of literature that’s been developing for the last 12 months showing that dietary factors are a potential real importance in both the risks of mental health and the progress of mental illnesses. And now we’ve got a little bit more information on specific nutrients.”
“In Australia we have very low levels of trans-fatty acids. In Spain it would seem that they have moderate levels, and in America they have extremely high levels, relatively speaking,”
“This new finding of a very clear dose-response relationship between the level of trans-fatty acids and risk for depression over time has, I think, major implications for America.”
Dr. Jacka PhD, Research Associate
“Clinicians should instruct patients about the importance of diet and maybe even educate them about what they should and shouldn’t eat,” Dr. Gómez-Pinilla, a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, and part of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, told Medscape Medical News.
Dr. Gómez-Pinilla said his center has been looking at the effect of diet on specific brain mechanisms in several animal models.
“I think the results of this study are important, and I think people should be more aware that the risk factors of diet can also apply across several neurological disorders beyond depression.
“For example, type of diet can be a factor in the healing process of traumatic brain injuries. The overall application for psychiatrists, in terms of these types of findings, is just very exciting,”
said Dr. Gómez-Pinilla.
The study was funded by the Spanish Government Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Fondo de Investigaciones Sanitarias, and the Navarra Regional Government. The study authors and commentators have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
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