Depression, an inflammatory disease?


Surprising observations indicate that anti-inflammatory drugs dramatically improve the treatment of depression. A glance at a discovery that could revolutionize the treatment of this disease.

There is still a lot of prejudice against mood disorders such as depression. While it is easy to sympathize with a person who exhibits outward signs of illness (fever, injury, fracture), it is sometimes more difficult to understand the seriousness of the disorders that specifically affect a person’s brain, without affecting them. apparent physical.

We sometimes hear of a person who suffers from depression “that he has only to change his mind” or that he takes advantage of his situation to “take a few weeks of vacation”, as if it were an imaginary illness, which one can easily confront with a little goodwill.

However, depression is a real mental illness caused by an imbalance in the levels of certain neurotransmitters, in particular serotonin and dopamine.

These molecules carry information from one neuron to another and play a very important role in a host of mental processes such as attention, appetite, mood and motivation.

La dépression, une maladie inflammatoire
Depression, an inflammatory disease?

»The depression “

An imbalance of these neurotransmitters causes depressed people to often experience feelings of worthlessness or guilt, a lack of interest in the outside world, disturbances in sleep or appetite, loss of energy and, in the most severe cases, thoughts of morbid or suicidal.

Chronic inflammation triggers depression

Although the factors responsible for the development of depression remain poorly understood, several recent observations suggest that chronic inflammation may play a trigger role. A good example comes from studies of people with hepatitis: these patients are often treated with interferon, a drug that causes a strong inflammatory response that eliminates the virus that causes the infection. This treatment is very effective, but scientists have observed a major side effect: between 29 at 40% of people treated develop severe depression, as if the sudden inflammation generated by interferon reached the brain and disrupted the normal functioning of neurons.

Existence of a link between inflammation and depression is also suggested by studies showing that people with depression are at a higher risk of being affected by heart disease or type 2 diabetes, two diseases that are known to have a strong inflammatory component.

Reduce inflammation for escape depression

The contribution of inflammation to the development of depression suggests that the use of agents anti-inflammatory drugs could represent a new approach to the treatment of the disease.

And the results are very encouraging: a detailed analysis of ten studies involving more than 6000 people with depression reported that adding anti-inflammatory drugs to commonly used clinically-used anti-depressants increased dramatically (270%) the rate of positive responses to treatment, without causing significant side effects

This is a very important observation, because many depressive patients respond poorly to currently available antidepressants and very few new treatments have emerged in recent years. Depression is therefore added to the long list of diseases caused by chronic inflammation, whether it is heart disease, type 2 diabetes or even several types of cancer. Like all cells in the body, the function of neurons in the brain is highly dependent on the biochemical environment of brain tissue and the creation of an inflammatory climate can only have negative repercussions on mental functions.

This contribution of inflammation also explains why eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, two simple and effective ways to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, also improve mood. and decreases the frequency and intensity of episodes of depression. As we often say, a healthy mind in a healthy body!


Köhler O et al. Effect of anti-inflammatory treatment on depression, depressive symptoms, and adverse effects: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. JAMA Psychiatry; 71: 1381 – 91.

See also: Depression: cure with probiotics

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