Untreated symptoms of depression can negate (the anti-inflammatory) benefits typically associated with physical activity and light to moderate alcohol consumption, new research suggests.
Based on measurements of the cardiometabolic risk marker C-reactive protein (CRP), the study “points to a new role for depression in addition to its direct impact on physical and mental health,” said lead author Dr Edward C Suarez (Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC).
The results suggest that depressive symptoms can “minimize the health effects of what many Americans are doing to reduce our risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes—exercise more and adopt a Mediterranean-type diet that includes light to moderate alcohol consumption,” Suarez said.
The study was published online March 26, 2013 in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
Light to moderate alcohol intake and leisure-time physical activity are independently associated with lower levels of CRP, whereas depression has been associated with elevated CRP.
The researchers found that individuals who were physically active generally had lower levels of CRP, with the exception of those with depressive symptoms (4.5% of the cohort), who reaped no beneficial effect of physical activity on CRP levels.
They also found that light to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower CRP, but only in men who were not depressed. Light to moderate alcohol consumption was not associated with lower CRP in those with increased depressive symptom severity, the researchers said.
This is the first study that has examined the impact of depressive symptomatology on the anti-inflammatory benefits of leisure time physical activity and light to moderate alcohol consumption.
“These findings argue for medical providers to combine management of depression alongside reduction of other forms of cardiovascular risk, instead of the more traditional approach of managing conditions separately,” the authors conclude.
So, keep smiling to kick away the blues!