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Study Identifies Biological Mechanism whereby Fatty Foods Increase the Likelihood of Depression

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Posted May 30, 2019

It is safe to say that most people are probably well aware of the benefits of maintaining a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy, yet when it comes to clinical depression, the macrocomposition of your diet may be just as important.

As was recently demonstrated in a new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry by a group of researchers from the University of California San Francisco, the University of Glasgow, and King‘s College, consuming foods high in fat can have a direct impact on your overall mood.

To find out whether high-fat diets and the blues are related in some interesting ways, the research team exposed a group of mice to a diet comprised of 60% fat (intervention group) or a regular one (control group), and monitored them for a period of three to eight weeks.

Mood tracking was performed using standard techniques, which include tail suspension tests and swim tests.

Eating a diet rich in fatty foods has a direct negative impact on a certain region of the brain, which, if persistent, may lead to the development of low mood and even clinical depression. Image: Dana Tentis via pxhere.com, CC0 Public Domain

Results showed that eating a high-fat diet leads to decreased physical activity and lower mood independently of weight gain that suggests a unique mechanism which does not depend on the amount of body fat one carries.

Following the examination of a number of different molecular pathways that could potentially explain the findings, the researchers discovered that a high-fat diet leads to the accumulation of fatty acids in the hypothalamus, which, in turn, suppresses normal protein signalling.

“We found that the consumption of a fat-dense diet leads to an influx of dietary fatty acids specifically in the hypothalamus. These fatty acids can directly modulate the protein kinase A (PKA) signalling pathway that is responsible for the development of depression,” wrote the researchers.

If the findings are replicated in further studies, they could lead to the eventual development of new molecules capable of restoring normal hypothalamic function and thereby reducing the symptoms of depression.

Given the dearth of new depression-specific drugs in the last several decades, research like this could pave the way to a new – neurologically-informed – era of the treatment of mental health disorders.

Sources: study, psychologytoday.com

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