Harvard Health Letter

Inflammation and depression link may lead to treatment

Can anti-inflammatory drugs help treat people with depression? That's what scientists are asking after new evidence that inflammation is linked to the development of depression. A study published online in Archives of General Psychiatry on Dec. 24, 2012, found that elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) were associated with a greater risk for psychological distress and depression. CRP is produced by the liver, and the levels rise when there is inflammation throughout the body. High levels in the blood can indicate inflammation-related conditions such as coronary artery disease or inflammatory bowel disease. The American Heart Association recommends high sensitivity CRP blood tests as part of routine screening for those who are at intermediate risk for heart disease. Previous studies suggest that low levels of inflammation may contribute to the development of depression. This new association of elevated CRP levels with psychological distress supports future studies about whether adding anti-inflammatory drugs to antidepressants will improve depression treatment, researchers say.

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