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Depression Can Limit the Benefits of Healthy Behaviors

Update Date: Mar 26, 2013 02:08 PM EDT

Depression has often been linked to chemical imbalances in the brain and causes people to no longer feel the pleasures and joys of every day activities and hobbies. Based from new research, depression might have even more detrimental effects on the patient's health. In a recent study, researchers found that people suffering from depression do not get the same level of benefits from healthy actions, such as exercise as people without depression do. These findings suggest that depression, even in the mildest form, can prevent people from being as healthy as they want despite working hard for it.

"Our findings suggest depression not only directly affects an individual's mental and physical health; it might also diminish the health benefits of physical activities and moderate alcohol consumption," Edward C. Suarez, Ph.D. stated. Suarez is the lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine.

The researchers from Duke Medicine measured the levels of cardio-metabolic risk marker C-reactive protein (CRP), which can help doctors predict a patient's risk of developing heart disease and chronic inflammatory issues in the future. CRP also influences the levels of plaque build up in arteries. Based from previous studies, lower levels of CRP have been attributed to reducing inflammation. People who generally have lower levels of CRP tend to exercise more often and drink moderately, which is considered to be one drink a day for females and two drinks a day for males.

The researchers analyzed the presence of CRP in 222 healthy individuals who were nonsmokers and had no history of psychiatric conditions. These participants also drank moderately and had a healthy amount of physical activity. When the researchers screened the participants for symptoms of depression, they found that 4.5 percent of the sample group actually suffered from untreated depression. Based from this finding, the researchers looked at the CRP levels in this group of people and found that the anti-inflammatory benefits that come from exercise and moderate drinking were not present for these people.

"This appears to be specific to inflammation, which we know increases the risk for heart disease, so our findings suggest that depression could be a complicating risk factor," Suarez stated. "We're not saying that exercise isn't helpful for those with depress; what we saw is that depression has effects beyond what has previously been reported. Even if mental health improves, the anti-inflammatory benefits of physical activities may lag behind."

The study was published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

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