Lower Arginine Levels Seen in Depressed Patients

Depression and L-ArginineNew information alludes to a link between lower levels of the amino acid L-Arginine and major depressive disorder (MDD).  L-Arginine is used by the body to produce nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide helps with increasing blood flow into the muscles.  Reduced nitric oxide production may increase inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) and oxidative stress which are believed to be involved in MDD.  A key biomarker, global Arginine bioavailability ratio (GABR) is used to measure decreased L-Arginine bioavailability.

Over 350 individuals participated in this study, 99 were adults diagnosed with MDD and the rest were non-depressed controls.  Blood levels of three amino acids (L-Arginine, L-Citrulline and L-Ornithine ) were measured at the onset of the study.  Additionally researchers analyzed asymmetric and symmetric dimethylarginine concentrations.  Both of these have both been known to inhibit nitric oxide synthase, which is an enzyme that initiates nitric oxide production from L-Arginine.

The levels of the 3 amino acids were compared between the non-depressed control and the depressed participants.  Baseline levels of serum L-Arginine and GABR were reduced in patients with MDD when compared with the non-depressed control group. There was an additional follow up after eight months at which times these amino acids were again measured.  Researchers looked at differences between participants with continuing depression and compared those with participants who were in “remission”.   Results showed participants with depression had reduced L-Arginine bioavailability. However the participants who were in “remission” had only marginally higher levels of bio-available L-Arginine than those who continued to have depression.

Further studies are needed to determine if supplementation with the amino acid L-Arginine may help improve depression and to determine what exactly causes reduced L-Arginine bioavailability in individuals with depression.

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Iron Deficiency May Increase Risk of Maternal Depression in Pregnancy

Iron Deficiency and DepressionAccording to researchers pregnant women who were Iron deficient were more likely to have increased levels of peri-natal depression.

Women between the ages of 18 and 25, who were either in the middle or towards the end of their pregnancy, participated in this retrospective study.  In a retrospective study, researchers look at past data of the participants.  Participants completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) questionnaire and had their blood drawn to assess their serum ferritin level, which is a biological marker of Iron storage.  31% of the participants were Iron deficient and on average these women (who were Iron deficient) scored significantly higher on the EPDS questionnaire compared with the participants who were iron sufficient.  By studying the ferritin level of women later on in their pregnancies researchers suggest a link exists between iron deficiency and antenatal (during or related to pregnancy) depression.

Several limitations were noted during the study.  Being a retrospective study did lead to the possibility that a reverse causality could exist, meaning antenatal depression could be what lead to an iron deficiency.  Additionally using a survey to determine depression levels was not the same as having a diagnosis of depression from a professional.  Lastly when designing the study researchers did not take into account the nutritional status of the participants during their pregnancy which along with the diagnosis of Iron deficiency could be a sign of general poor health and nutrition.

Further studies with a larger sample group are needed.

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Prenatal Folic Acid Supplementation Helps Lower Postpartum Depression Risk

Folic Acid and Postpartum DepressionSupplementing Folic Acid for at six months before giving birth could lower the risk of postpartum depression.

Almost 1,600 women who had given birth six to 12 weeks earlier were recruited to participate in this study.  Data on prenatal folic acid supplementation, obstetric history, and lifestyle and socio-demographic characteristics was collected.  803 (50.4%) women participating in the study took Folic Acid supplements during their pregnancy but for a period of 3 months or less, 146 (9.2%) supplemented with Folic Acid for 4 to 6 months and 643 (40.4%) women supplemented with Folic Acid for over 6 months.  Researchers noted 29.4% of the participants experienced postpartum depression.  The tendency to experience postpartum depression was lower in the group of women who had supplemented Folic Acid for over 6 months of their pregnancy.

Previous studies done worldwide have found determinants of postpartum depression (PPD) include biological factors, hormones, inflammatory factors, nutrients, cultural and environmental factors, family history and social support, and socio-economic status.  Researchers believe this study shows that prenatal Folic Acid supplementation for over 6 months decreased the risk of PPD regardless of the contributing factors seen in past studies.

Further studies which take into account serum and dietary Folic Acid levels would eliminate any bias found in this study which relied on participants recall and was collected after the participants had given birth.

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Burnt Out? Rhodiola Rosea Supplements May Help

Burn OutData from a new study finds daily supplementation with Rhodiola Rosea Extract can improve the symptoms of burnout.

Over 100 women and men, between the ages of 30 and 60, who were suffering from symptoms of burnout, participated in this study. Participants took 400 mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract daily.  The study lasted 12 weeks.

Improvements in symptoms like “loss of zest for life”, “lack of joy”, “depersonalization”, “emotional exhaustion”, fatigue and “exhaustion” were seen.  Increases in sexual function and sexual interest were also seen.  Burnout has been known to impair sexual function.  Participants had a high rate of compliance during the course of the study and very few adverse events were reported with the supplementation of Rhodiola Rosea.

These results are encouraging and can be used as a basis for additional clinical trials.

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Low Omega-3 Levels Linked to Prenatal Depression

Omega-3 and Prenatal DepressionA new study shows an Omega-3 deficiency as well as increased inflammation may be associated with prenatal depression (PND).  Also an Omega-3 deficiency may result in longer episodes of depression.

33 women (17 women with PND and 16 healthy women) in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy participated in this study.  Their inflammatory markers, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) as well as their Omega-3 levels were measured.  The women who experienced PND had significantly higher TNF-a levels and significantly lower Omega-3 levels.

These finds confirm other observational studies that show higher levels of total Omega-3 (DHA  and EPA) seem to act as “protective factors” against major depressive disorder (MDD).  Also larger DHA levels found in breast milk and increasing the consumption of DHA rich foods, like seafood, have been shown as links to decreased risks of postpartum depression.  Omega-3 deficiencies seen during pregnancy may also increase the length of the depressive episodes which could last even into the first year after delivery.  This could lead to psychosocial dysfunction, suicide, poor mother-child relationships, and destructive behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse according to this study.

Future larger sample size studies are needed to replicate the findings in this study.

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Study Finds Magnesium May Ease Depression Symptoms

Anxiety restlesness and depressionIn this open-label randomized cross-over study, participants were adults experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of depression (scores of 5-19 on the Public Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)).  The enrollment in the study covered a period of over one full year.  This was done to minimize the number of cases of seasonal depression participating in this trial.  The study period lasted six weeks.  Participants supplemented with 248 mg of elemental magnesium per day.

PHQ-9 scores were reduced by a significant 6 points and Generally Anxiety Disorders-7 scores dropped 4.5 points. Reductions in PHQ-9 scores of 5 or more are considered clinically relevant changes in persons who are receiving treatment for depression.  The improvements seen, occurred no matter what gender, age or baseline depression score of the participant.  Additionally subjects taking pharmaceutical antidepressants during the study period saw even larger reductions in PHQ-9 scores.  Most participants taking the magnesium supplement saw some improvements in their scores within two weeks from the start of supplementation.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body.  The researchers hoped to see larger clinical trials that extend over a longer time period to verify the results of this study.

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Nestle`-Backed Study Links Probiotic Strain and Depression

gut health probioticsA new study backed by Nestle` shows a specific strain of a probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum, helped relieve symptoms of depression as well as alleviating gastrointestinal upsets.

Over 40 adults who had experienced Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in addition to mild to moderate amounts of depression or anxiety participated in this study.   Half the group took a dose of Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) daily and the other half of the group took a placebo.  After six weeks researchers found 64% of the patients taking the probiotic experienced reductions in depression scores when compared to 32% of the participants taking the placebo.  Additionally functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), showed depression score improvements were associated with changes in multiple areas in the brain involved with mood control.  No changes were seen in anxiety scores however improvements in quality of life were seen in the group supplementing with the probiotic.

Although the results of this study are promising, larger scale trials are needed.

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