We’re smack in the middle of a couple weeks focused on the quest for improved treatments for depression and anxiety.
This past Thursday was World Mental Health Day, dedicated to raising awareness for mental health …and this year’s efforts were focused on “40 seconds of action” to help reduce the risk of suicide. Because every 40 seconds, worldwide, we lose someone to suicide. And right on the heels of #WorldMentalHealthDay, we’re jumping into #OCDAwarenessWeek, which is promoted internationally each year by the International OCD Foundation during the second week of October. It’s an opportunity to LEARN about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and find ways to support those who live with it every day. And every discovery that researchers find lays the groundwork for improved wellbeing and fact-based treatment regimens. Like polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in your brain. Let’s talk about how you can get your PUFAs straight and reduce the symptoms of depression.
BBRF Researchers Help You Get Your PUFAs Straight
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF) just released information about a new study that may explain why some people have more severe depression than others.
Led by M. Elizabeth Sublette, M.D., Ph.D., and J. John Mann, M.D., and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the study identified a relationship between polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), specialized proteins that transport serotonin (SERTs), and the severity of, as well as vulnerability to, depression.
This is a short excursion into only ONE aspect of the complexities of major depression and bipolar depression. But it’s important, and may give us something that we can do — actively, ourselves … every day — by modifying our diet. It’s back again–the importance of what we feed our brain. Not just diversifying our microbiome, ensuring we take in micronutrients, but choosing the best lipids to feed our brain health. Getting our fatty acids right.
See what you think of this…
BBRF Researchers Find New Discovery About Reducing Your Vulnerability to Depression
Using PET scans, researchers have found an intriguing relationship between certain types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and the specialized protein transporters that move serotonin (SERT) to where it needs to be to do its job to reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
These are both ordinary, commonly seen components in the brain, but together, they seem to play a role in either causing depression… or at least causing you to be more vulnerable to it.
This study discovered a significant relationship tied to a certain PUFA known as arachidonic acid (AA). They identified a relationship between PUFAs and levels of that serotonin transporter, SERT, in the 6 most important areas of the brain. Plus, it showed how these two factors may influence the severity of depression.
The relationship is U-shaped, and inverted. It’s nonlinear. And that’s important.
Sounds complicated, I know. But here’s how they discovered this connection.
Study Subjects Stopped Their Medications for At Least 2 Weeks
The research team invited 21 adults, who were each in a full episode of major depression, to participate in the study. Each of these participants had refrained from any medication that affects serotonin levels or the biochemical system that produces arachidonic acid for at least 2 weeks.
A number of weeks before the PET scans, the team evaluated plasma levels of each participant for three specific PUFAs. DHA and EPA are both omega-3 fatty acids, and AA is an omega-6 fatty acid.
Measuring these three levels in six specific and key regions of the brain demonstrated their significance in depression.
Now get this:
In a healthy brain, SERTs are widely available in abundance throughout the brain so they can remove and recirculate those serotonin molecules from spaces where they can’t function.
For example, when they get stuck in spaces between the sending and receiving neurons after a signal has been sent. This is what happens: The SERTs take up the serotonin and return it to the sending cell. So it’s ready for the next message that needs to go out. Easy.
Now that’s what happens in a healthy brain.
However, a number of peer-reviewed studies have found that there’s a low availability of SERT in the brain of someone suffering from depression…or bipolar depression. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants, (SRIs), block the SERTs so the SERTs can’t move the serotonin out of those spaces where they’re stuck. This keeps serotonin available in the synapses between the neuron cells which promotes more signaling.
But In A Depressed Brain…Well, You Need to Get Your PUFAs Straight
However, this team of researchers discovered something about those three PUFA levels they analyzed before the scans. Only AA actually affected the availability of SERTs across those six brain regions they viewed with PET scans.
In fact, they found that the lower the AA level a person had when evaluated before the scans, the greater that person’s SERT transporter level they saw in the PET scan.
Reduced AA level = More Transporters; and Therefore Improved Mood…?
This is so revealing. We need to get our PUFAs straight.
Because depression and bipolar depression are complex and are each affected by so many factors. We’ve learned so much about depression through observing ketamine’s actions in the brain. And while we no longer believe the key to depression treatment is as simple as increasing level of serotonin (or any other neurotransmitter), we do know that serotonin binding plays a strong role in freedom from depression or conversely, a vulnerability to it.
Of course, our BBRF research team called for more studies to verify these findings. They asked that other researchers carry them a few steps farther. We need more information about the science behind polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements in depression. How do we work with complex, inverted, U-shaped relationships?
Hopefully, we’ll be hearing more about the effect AA has on depression and vulnerability to it.
This may sound like a little thing …a small finding from a ton of research. But it’s a breakthrough. And when you add up all the individual breakthroughs, together they can result in your changed and improved life.
Get Your PUFAs Straight and Bring Depression To Its Knees
At Innovative Psychiatry we rejoice with our patients whose symptoms lift after IV ketamine treatment. These patients didn’t responded to traditional medications. We continue to use a myriad of medicines, treatments, and regimens to relieve symptoms. And we bring the latest research findings to our practice. But for most patients, nothing compares to IV ketamine’s restoration of resilience, creativity, and initiative. The results bring fresh perspective, fresh hope, and renewed relationships as people rebuild their lives with enthusiasm and clarity.
Let’s keep spreading the word that remission of symptoms can happen. It’s no longer a pipe dream.
We know others who suffered from the same kind of pain, vacant-ness, and despondency you do. We can help.
To the restoration of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.