COLUMBUS , Ohio -- A new study suggests that people whose diets contain dramatically more of one kind of polyunsaturated fatty acid than another may be at greater risk for both clinical depression and certain inflammatory diseases.
The report, published online this week in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, suggests that we need to balance out our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The current typical American diet contains 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3, a ratio that researchers say should be lowered to 4-to-1, or even 2-to-1.
This is the most recent in a long series of experiments Ohio State University researchers have conducted on the links between psychological stress and immunity. The addition of dietary questions to studies that have previously focused solely on emotional and biochemical markers may yield important new clues about the immune system.
"In this study, we're looking at the intersection of behavior, immune function and diet. In past experiments, we concentrated only on the first two," explained Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State and lead author on the paper.
"It now appears that diet is a very important variable in the equation as to how people respond to depression and stress."
The study, conducted in OSU's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, focused on a group of 43 middle-aged to elderly men and women, nearly half of which were the caregiver spouses of people with Alzheimer's or other dementias. By including caregivers who typically report greater stress and more depression than similar ad ults who are not caregiving, the researchers could look at how depression and diet might interact to affect inflammation.
Blood samples were drawn from each person in the study and tested for interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor -alpha (TNF-alpha ) and the receptor molecule for IL-6. Participants also completed a survey questionnaire
Contact: Jan Kiecolt-Glaser
Ohio State University