Depression vulnerability linked to genetic ancestry

The largest study of this type ever done has found that depression vulnerability is linked to genetic ancestry.

While researchers have identified genes linked with many debilitating diseases, the biological underpinnings of depression have remained elusive—until recently.

DepressionVulnerabilityA large-scale study that tapped into crowd-sourced data discovered a trove of 17 different genetic variations linked to depression in people of European ancestry, reports The Guardian (U.K.).

In order to pinpoint genetic variants, which may have a very subtle influence on a person’s overall depression risk, a team of researchers analyzed saliva samples of more than 300,000 people collected by the genetic profiling company 23andMe.

Of those people, 75,607 anonymously reported being diagnosed or treated for depression.

A major depressive disorder is characterized by mood changes, sleep disruption, fatigue and loss of appetite. A milder form of depression is frequently characterized by binge emotional-driven eating, resulting in obesity.

While it has been well known among scientists that depression can run in families, previous studies have been unable to identify variants influencing depression vulnerability.

According to 23andMe, serious depression is a leading cause of disability, estimated to affect at least 350 million people worldwide. Unreported, millions more may be suffering from the milder form of depression.

And it appears that people of European ancestry have the greatest risk of depression vulnerability of all ethnic backgrounds. However, the researchers found two variants associated with depression vulnerability in people of Han Chinese ancestry.

The researchers combined their results with data from another study involving about 9,000 people with depression and 9,500 healthy adults.

They found the genetic variations linked to depression are spread across 15 regions of the genome, including several sites in or around genes involved in brain development.

The study doesn’t prove these gene variations cause depression, but it could alter perceptions about the condition and lead to better treatment.

“It just underscores that depression really is a brain disease,” says researcher Roy Perlis, associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“Depression is about biology, and I think that it will be helpful for some people in reducing stigma.” Perlis said that the neurotransmitter-based models currently used to treat depression are “more than 40 years old, and we really need new treatment models.”

As always, we at this blogsite promote healthy eating, exercise and appropriate nutritional supplements to compensate for the rampant nutrient deficiency in most of the modern diet.

Regardless of the stresses, strains and sorrows in someone’s life, a healthful lifestyle can do nothing but good.

Other sources: The Week magazine and