High Blood Triglycerides: The Depression Link
The foods we eat have critical influence on how the brain handles its tasks because the brain is an extremely metabolically active organ. Therefore, the right foods, or the natural neurochemicals they contain, can enhance our mental capabilities.
According to nutritional neuroscience, as it is called, a diet that draws heavily on wrong fatty foods is not just bad for the heart and linked to certain cancers - it may also be a major cause of depression.
According to Charles Glueck, M.D., medical director of the Cholesterol Center of Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, the generally poor nutritional status of certain depressed people deprives them of food components required for normal mood states.
In fact, Glueck finds that high cholesterol levels are not only bad for the heart; they are dreadful for the brain. High blood levels of cholesterol, and especially of triglycerides, are strongly correlated with the incidence of affective disorders, including depression, manic depression, and schizoaffective disorder, as well as with hostility and aggression.
"We have shown that in patients with high triglycerides who were in a depressive state, the more you lower the triglycerides, the more you alleviate the depression," Glueck explains.
In a dramatic 1994 study, Dr. Glueck and colleagues demonstrated that high blood triglycerides, together with high total cholesterol and low HDL-"good" cholesterol, were the sole causative factors in mild to serious depression he detected in patients referred for treatment of severe familial hypertriglyceridemia.
None of the patients - fourteen men and nine women - were receiving psychiatric care. But when he administered a standard test for depressive symptoms, Glueck found that a substantial 39 percent of them had mild to severe depression.
In the first six weeks of treatment, marked reduction in triglycerides and depression has occurred. This study confirms the construct of the hypertryglyceridemia-driven metabolic cause of depression. As our brain is an extremely metabolically active organ, the symptoms of depression may be alleviated by the metabolic changes, namely, by optimizing blood triglyceride (fat) levels.
The Plausible Explanation
The blood fat-depression connection is in a word “viscosity.” A high triglyceride level increases blood “sludginess.” It is harder for blood to transport sufficient oxygen to brain cells. Under such conditions, mini brain lesions and blood clots may form. Those who are affected may exhibit symptoms of so-called organic brain syndrome, among them depression and hostility.
Lowering triglyceride levels normalizes serum viscosity and reverses cerebral oxygen deficiency. In addition, lowering triglyceride levels improves scores on dementia screening tests in elderly patients.
It should be noted that not all psychological or psychiatric disorders are attributable to triglycerides. Nevertheless, research suggests that high blood-fat levels can be the sole cause of depression in some cases, and that they may exacerbate mental problems due to other causes.