January 28, 2011

Feeling Sad? Switch to Olive Oil

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Study suggests trans-fats and saturated fats contribute to depression risk

(dailyRx News) Researchers from the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria suggest trans-fats and saturated fats, commonly found in processed foods, may contribute to depression risk.

The researchers contend olive oil may have an opposite effect, according to a six-year study in which participants' diets, lifestyles and ailments were analyzed at the beginning of the study, over its course and at the end of the project.

Researchers followed 12,059 volunteers over six years, none of whom suffered from depression at the beginning of the study, and found that at the end of the period 657 new cases of depression were reported among participants. Additionally, the more trans-fats the depressed patients reported eating, "the greater the harmful effect they produced in the volunteers," the authors report.

The team, directed by Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Navarra, also analyzed the role of polyunsaturated (healthy) fats found in fish and olive oil and discovered this type of fat was associated with lower risk of developing depression.

The findings are in line with European statistics in which beneficial fats abundant in Mediterranean diets correlate with decreased occurrences of depression in the continent's southern countries compared to higher incidences of depression in northern areas, where healthy fats are consumed less frequently.

According to the study, researchers observed an increase in the risk of depression by nearly 50 percent in spite of the fact the study was performed on a population with low-average intake of trans-fat, which accounted for .4 percent of total energy ingested by participants.

While the study results are interesting it should be noted that it isn't known how the researchers controlled for other factors of depression, like life events, substance abuse, men vs. women, or how they determined what people ate.

Depression impacts an estimated 15 million adults in the United States. Depression is a state of prolonged low mood and aversion to activity. A person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being are affected and may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability, or restlessness. The primary treatments for major depression are psychological counseling and medications. Medication therapies include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). SSRIs include: fluoxetine (Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®), sertraline (Zoloft®), citalopram (Celexa®) and escitalopram (Lexapro®). SNRIs include: duloxetine (Cymbalta®), venlafaxine (Effexor®) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq®). Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an NDRI. Atypical antidepressants include trazodone (Desyrel®) and mirtazapine (Remeron®). Each medication category has different side effects.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
January 27, 2011

Last Updated:
March 9, 2011