Posted on Apr 28, 2009, 3 p.m.
By gary clark
Researchers have found that depression is linked with the accumulation of visceral fat, which has long been known to put people at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Rush University Medical Center recently conducted a study to investigate the link between visceral fat and depression, which included 409 middle-aged women from the Women in the South Side Health Project, a study on the transition to menopause being conducted in Chicago. Using a common screening test, the researchers assessed depressive symptoms of the participants, approximately half of whom were African-American, the other half, Caucasian.
Led by Lynda Powell, Ph.D., chairperson of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush University, the investigators used a CT scan to measure the fat packed between internal organs at the waistline (visceral fat). While many studies have shown that depression is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, this was the first study to have found a strong correlation between depression and visceral fat, especially in study participants who were overweight or obese. "In our study, depressive symptoms were clearly related to deposits of visceral fat, which is the type of fat involved in disease," says Dr. Powell. "Our results suggest that central adiposity - which is commonly called belly fat - is an important pathway by which depression contributes to the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes."
Even when the analysis was adjusted for other variables that could have contributed to visceral fat accumulation, such as physical activity, the results were the same. The researchers also did not find any association between depressive symptoms and subcutaneous fat, which is the type of fat deposited just beneath the skin. In fact, the researchers point out that simply measuring waist size would have been an inaccurate testing methodology because waist size includes subcutaneous fat. The researchers speculate that depression causes certain chemical changes in the body, such as the production of cortisol and inflammatory compounds, triggering visceral fat to accumulate. However, Dr. Powell emphasized that more research is needed to definitively pinpoint exactly how depression causes visceral fat to accumulate.
News Release: Depression linked with accumulation of visceral fat www.eurekalert.org April 28, 2009