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Is Inflammation the underlying cause of Depression?

by Dr Rangan Chatterjee   /  June 8, 2016
Is Inflammation the underlying cause of Depression?

A new paper has been published (http://bit.ly/1RWn8GK) suggesting that one can predict which patients suffering from depression will respond to conventional antidepressants by looking at markers of inflammation in their blood. They found that patients with high degrees of inflammation do NOT respond to conventional anti-depressants.It highlights what scientific research has been suggesting for many years – that depression itself can be a symptom of biological changes in the body that are driven by inflammation rather than simply changes in brain chemicals. In these cases, addressing the body's inflammation rather than using a drug to raise serotonin levels would seem to be common sense. Interestingly, one of the markers used to determine levels of inflammation in this study is the cytokine IL-1β – this cytokine is also elevated in many other chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Again, this makes sense, when we understand that chronic unresolved inflammation drives many different diseases.This is where medicine is right now – an era of personalised medicine but also the growing awareness that the name of a disease tells us nothing about its aetiology (or root cause). Depression is simply a name given to a collection of symptoms – the name itself tells us nothing about the root cause of the problem.I was invited to speak to the public about the implications of this study on Breakfast on BBC One.#lifestylemedicine

Posted by Dr Chatterjee on Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A new paper has been published suggesting that one can predict which patients suffering from depression will respond to conventional antidepressants by looking at markers of inflammation in their blood.

They found that patients with high degrees of inflammation do NOT respond to conventional anti-depressants.

It highlights what scientific research has been suggesting for many years – that depression itself can be a symptom of biological changes in the body that are driven by inflammation rather than simply changes in brain chemicals. In these cases, addressing the body’s inflammation rather than using a drug to raise serotonin levels would seem to be common sense.

Interestingly, one of the markers used to determine levels of inflammation in this study is the cytokine IL-1β – this cytokine is also elevated in many other chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Again, this makes sense, when we understand that chronic unresolved inflammation drives many different diseases.

This is where medicine is right now – an era of personalised medicine but also the growing awareness that the name of a disease tells us nothing about its aetiology (or root cause).

Depression is simply a name given to a collection of symptoms – the name itself tells us nothing about the root cause of the problem.

I was invited to speak to the public about the implications of this study on Breakfast on BBC One.

— Dr Chatterjee



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Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP