April 13, 2016

How Depression May Compound Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

MONTREAL -- Depression may compound the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people with early warning signs of metabolic disease such as obesity, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

While previous studies have pointed to a link between depression and diabetes, the current findings suggest that when depression combines with metabolic risk factors the risk of developing diabetes rises to a level beyond the sum of its parts.

“Emerging evidence suggests that not depression, per se, but depression in combination with behavioural and metabolic risk factors increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions,” said lead author Norbert Schmitz, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. “The aim of our study was to evaluate characteristics of individuals with both depressive symptoms and metabolic risk factors.”

The 4.5-year study divided 2,525 participants in Quebec, aged 40 to 69 years, into 4 groups: those with both depression and ≥3 metabolic risk factors; 2 groups, each with 1 of these conditions but not the other; and a reference group with neither condition.

In a departure from previous findings, the researchers discovered that participants with depression, alone, were not at significantly greater risk of developing diabetes than those in the reference group. The group with metabolic symptoms but not depression was around 4 times more likely to develop diabetes. Those with both depression and metabolic risk factors, on the other hand, were more than 6 times more likely to develop diabetes, with the analysis showing the combined effect of depression and metabolic symptoms was greater than the sum of the individual effects.

The researchers believe depression, metabolic symptoms, and the risk of developing diabetes interact in a number of ways. In some cases, a vicious cycle may emerge with depression and metabolic risk factors aggravating one another.

Evidence shows people suffering from depression are less likely to adhere to medical advice aimed at tackling metabolic symptoms, whether it be taking medication, quitting smoking, getting more exercise or eating a healthier diet. Without effective management, metabolic symptoms often worsen and this can in turn exacerbate the symptoms of depression.

Beyond these behavioural aspects, some forms of depression are associated with changes in the body’s metabolic systems which can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and problems with glucose metabolism. Meanwhile, some antidepressant medications can also cause weight gain.

The researchers emphasised that not all cases of depression are the same -- only some people with depression also suffer from metabolic problems. When it comes to improving health outcomes, identifying those patients who suffer from both depression and metabolic symptoms as a subgroup and adopting an integrated treatment approach may be crucial to breaking the cycle.

“Focussing on depression alone might not change lifestyle/metabolic factors, so people are still at an increased risk of developing poor health outcomes, which in turn increases the risk of developing recurrent depression,” said Dr. Schmitz.

SOURCE: McGill University
Log in or register to post comments

DG News saves you time by delivering a short list of medical developments worthy of your time and attention. Our advanced algorithms rank clinical content based on hundreds of data points to surface the most important medical advances impacting your practice each week.