Study Finds Link Between Depression and Inflammation


August 19, 2014

One of the most damaging false beliefs in the way our society treats health is the notion that “mental health” and “physical health” exist independently of one another. In fact, we are holistic beings, with all aspects of our wellness existing in conversation with one another, and thus our health needs to be addressed with a holistic approach.

A new study from the University of Cambridge helps drive this point home. The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, explores the theory that a protein released into our blood when we have an inflammatory response to an infection may have a role in mental health.  After studying 4,500 people over nine years, the researchers concluded that higher levels of the protein are indeed associated with an increased risk of developing depression.

This discovery is hopeful, giving treatment providers a new avenue for approaching a ubiquitous, elusive, and often chronic disease. In the words of the study’s authors, “inflammatory pathways may provide important new intervention and prevention targets for these disorders.”

What’s more, this new study suggests that inflammation may be the missing link that explains the frequent association between heart diseases, diabetes, and mental conditions such as depression.

For Health Coaches and those of us looking to foster healthy lives for ourselves and our friends and family, this study gives us one more tool to use as we build a world of better health. By filling our diets with anti-inflammatory foods, we can take a proactive approach and potentially safeguard ourselves, our clients, and our loved ones against mental conditions associated with inflammation.

Integrative Nutrition guest lecturer Dr. Andrew Weil recommends an anti-inflammatory diet that provides you with the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fiber, and phytonutrients your body needs to fight back against inflammation.

Some particularly powerful anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Whole grains such as bulgur wheat and brown rice
  • Winter squashes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Nuts such as walnuts, cashews, and almonds
  • Avocadoes
  • Whole soy protein
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage
  • Green or oolong tea
  • Dark chocolate (with a minimum cocoa content of 70%)

What do you think about the connection between nutrition and mental health? Do you have firsthand experience with the relationship between the two? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below! 

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