The Underlying Mechanisms of Depression

Posted on March 18th 2017 (over 1 year)

This episode dives into a very important topic: the involvement of the immune system, especially chronic elevation of it, in depression. Chronically elevated inflammation is increasingly being shown by emerging research as having a relationship with depression.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the complex immunological response of our body's tissues to pathogens or damage, where they facilitate repair mechanisms. We need inflammation. Without it, we are vulnerable.

However, when inflammation is chronic, it can be damaging and goes from being adaptive to playing a role in driving the diseases that largely constitutes what we call aging.

In fact, suppression of inflammation is thought to be the most important driver of successful longevity, increasing in importance with advancing age.

Inflammation can become chronically elevated for a variety of reasons. Many of them are lifestyle related: poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, and more. Also, especially important in the context of depression: systemic inflammation can also be increased by psychosocial stress, as well.

Inflammation as a hard biological endpoint for depression.

While it’s likely that there may be more going on with depression than just inflammation by itself, it could be an incredibly useful lens through which to look at promising avenues to potentially treat or prevent it, since controlling systemic inflammation shows promise as being both important for longevity and health in general.

Moreover, inflammation can be clinically monitored by well-known biomarkers for systemic inflammation, making it amenable to potentially tracking therapeutic success: the risk of major depression has been shown to increase by 44% for each standard deviation increase in log c-reactive protein.

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