Depression and inflammation in older adults: a new perspective

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A team of scientists at Penn Medicine made an interesting discovery.

They found that older people who feel very sad or depressed do not necessarily have high levels of inflammation in their bodies unless they already have illnesses that cause inflammation like arthritis.

This was a surprising find because many believed that being depressed was linked with having high inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself when it gets hurt or has to fight off diseases. It can make parts of your body get hot, red, swollen, or painful.

What Earlier Research Showed

Before this study, many researchers thought that inflammation and depression were connected in older adults.

This was because they found higher levels of immune proteins related to inflammation in the blood of older people with depression, compared to older people without depression.

Some researchers also found that inflammation levels in our body tend to increase as we get older because of chronic illnesses and our body’s weakening immune system.

Based on these findings, doctors even tried giving anti-inflammatory drugs (drugs that lower inflammation) to patients with depression.

They found that these drugs could help when given alongside regular depression medicines.

A Fresh Look at Depression and Inflammation

This new study, however, says that the connection between depression and inflammation might not be as simple as we thought.

The researchers at Penn Medicine studied over 1,100 depressed individuals and selected 63 individuals aged 50 to 80 who had major depressive disorder but did not have other conditions that cause inflammation.

They compared this group to 29 healthy individuals of the same age.

To their surprise, they found no major differences in the levels of 29 different inflammation-linked immune proteins in the blood between the two groups.

Then, the researchers divided 60 depressed patients into three groups.

One group received regular depression medicine, another group received depression medicine plus an anti-inflammatory drug, and the last group received a placebo (a medicine with no effect) for eight weeks.

They found that while the two groups receiving the depression medicine showed significant improvement in their depression symptoms compared to the placebo group, there was no significant difference between the group that received the anti-inflammatory drug and the group that did not.

This means that adding an anti-inflammatory drug did not make a big difference in treating depression in these patients.

Concluding Thoughts

From their study, the researchers concluded that depression can occur in older adults without inflammation.

Therefore, giving anti-inflammatory treatments might not help unless the patient also has inflammation along with depression.

However, they noted that their study did not include patients with late-life depression who also have diseases that cause inflammation.

So, it’s still possible that inflammation from these diseases can contribute to depression.

One of the researchers, Yvette Sheline, said that their study suggests that depression can come in different forms, some with inflammation and some without.

She recommended that people with depression should consult with their doctors to see if they have any other illnesses that might be causing inflammation.

This is because there is evidence that increased inflammation can cause symptoms of depression.

If you care about depression, please read studies that vegetarian diet may increase your depression risk, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about 5 signs of depression you shouldn’t ignore, and results showing new drug could start fighting depression in just 2 hours.

The study was published in Translational Psychiatry.

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