Metabolic Syndrome and Depression

Depression in humans and animals is associated with significant metabolic changes including increased oxidative stress, inflammation and the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Such metabolic changes are commonly found together in sufferers of metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by insulin resistance and weight gain, particularly in the form of abdominal obesity. Researchers have investigated the association between the presence of metabolic syndrome and depression in otherwise healthy humans and found that those with metabolic syndrome were about 4 times more likely to suffer from depression than those without metabolic syndrome. This research does not mean that metabolic syndrome is necessarily a cause of depression, but it tends to suggest that the presence of the metabolic perturbations characterising metabolic syndrome, particularly oxidative stress and inflammation, may contribute significantly to its development. 

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Petrlová, B., Rosolova, H., Hess, Z., Podlipný, J. and Šimon, J. 2004. Depressive disorders and the metabolic syndrome of insulin resistance. In Seminars in Vascular Medicine. 4(2): 161-165
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Can Vitamin C Suppress Cortisol Levels?

There is evidence that vitamin C is able to suppress blood levels of cortisol in humans. In one study a group of researchers administered synthetic corticotropin (a hormone that causes the release of cortisol) to a group of children as an intramuscular injection. However one group of children received 1 gram of ascorbic acid delivered intradermally. The results of the study showed that those children who received the ascorbic acid had significantly lower cortisol levels than those who did not receive the ascorbic acid. This supports other evidence that shows that modest oral doses of vitamin C can lower cortisol levels following intense exercise in healthy physically fit men. Vitamin C therefore appears to blunt the adrenal secretion of cortisol following artificial and natural stimulation, and this may explain why vitamin C is able to limit physiological consequences of chronic stress such as may occur in mood disorders. However, it is unclear how vitamin C may exert its beneficial effects. 

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Liakakos, D., Doulas, N. L., Ikkos, D., Acnoussakis, C., Vlachos, P. and Jcouramani, G. 1975. Inhibitory effect of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) on cortisol secretion following adrenal stimulation in children. Clinica Chimica Acta. 65(3): 251-255
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Sleep Deprivation and Interleukin 6

Sleep is a restorative process that plays a significant role in maintaining the homeostatic functions of the body. The immune system is particularly affected by sleep, and during periods of sleep there are changes to certain aspects of immunity. For example, during sleep levels of the cytokine interleukin 6 increase. Interleukin 6 is thought to have a number of roles during sleep including the mobilisation of energy, the stimulation of protein synthesis, the maintenance of body temperature and the consolidation of memories. Interleukin 6 may also be required as a modulator of inflammation and is also considered a response element to stress. Individuals with disturbed sleep patterns have been evidenced to display detrimental functioning of their interleukin 6 release during sleep. In one study human subjects were deprived of a certain degree of sleep and as a result their levels of interleukin 6 dropped, suggesting that significant disruption to homeostatic systems, including immunity, may have occurred. 

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Redwine, L., Hauger, R. L., Gillin, J. C. and Irwin, M. 2000. Effects of sleep and sleep deprivation on interleukin-6, growth hormone, cortisol, and melatonin levels in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 85(10): 3597-3603
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L-Carnitine Absorption and Metabolism 

L-carnitine is a nutrient factor synthesised by mammals and found mainly in muscle, kidney, liver and brain tissue. The total L-carnitine pool in mammals including humans is made up of L-carnitine as well as acylcarnitine esters of which acetyl-L-carnitine is the most common. L-carnitine from food is absorbed by active and passive transport through enterocytes and it shows a bioavailability of around 50 to 90 %. Studies on supplements show that absorption of the L-carnitine is passive and the absorption is only around 15 %. The non-absorbed L-carnitine is degraded by microflora in the intestinal tract. Acetyl-L-carnitine is partially hydrolysed to L-carnitine in enterocytes during absorption, although supplements can increase circulating acetyl-L-carnitine levels by around 45 % after 2 grams per day of acetyl-L-carnitine per day. Following supplements of L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine, tissue levels rise but return to normal following around 12 hours suggesting daily intakes are required to elevate tissue levels.  

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Rebouche, C. J. 2004. Kinetics, pharmacokinetics, and regulation of L‐carnitine and acetyl‐L‐carnitine metabolism. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1033(1): 30-41
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Vitamin C and Vitamin E Synergism

Vitamin C and vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) are important antioxidants in human nutrition. Studies show that both antioxidants are essential to health and both play a similar although distinct role in protecting cells from the damage caused by free radicals. However, in order for this protection to be optimal, it is important that both antioxidants are consumed in the correct amounts because they work synergistically together. Studies have shown that vitamin E can prevent peroxidation in cell membranes but that this ability is finite and the antioxidant capacity of the vitamin diminishes with time. However providing vitamin C and vitamin E prolongs the effects of the vitamin E because the vitamin C is able to recycle the vitamin E as it becomes depleted in its efforts to prevent free radical damage. Supplemental vitamin E should always therefore be accompanied by supplemental vitamin C, and vice versa, as in isolation each vitamin has the potential to disrupt the normal antioxidant protection of cell membranes.

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Hon-Wing, L., Vang, M. J. and Mavis, R. D. 1981. The cooperative interaction between vitamin E and vitamin C in suppression of peroxidation of membrane phospholipids. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Lipids and Lipid Metabolism. 664(2): 266-272
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Acetyl-L-Carnitine to Restore L-Carnitine Levels

L-carnitine is a nutrient substance that is involved in the metabolism of lipids. L-carnitine plays a pivotal role in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria where they are oxidised for energy production. L-carnitine may play a role in general lipid metabolism and supplements may cause improvements in blood lipid levels. L-carnitine is present in high concentrations in the muscle and heart tissue where lipids are an important source of energy. As animals and humans age, L-carnitine levels fall and this may be one reason why lipid levels become more dysfunctional with age. Acetyl-L-carnitine is an acylated form of L-carnitine that is available as supplements. Evidence from rat studies shows that supplemental acetyl-L-carnitine is able to increase tissue levels of L-carnitine in rats. Studies also show that by doing this, acetyl-L-carnitine is able to normalise the increase in lipid levels seen with ageing rats, and in particular may normalise certain aspects of cholesterol metabolism by decreasing the cholesterol content of phospholipids. 

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Tanaka, Y., Sasaki, R., Fukui, F., Waki, H., Kawabata, T., Okazaki, M., Hasegawa, K. and Ando, S. 2004. Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation restores decreased tissue carnitine levels and impaired lipid metabolism in aged rats. Journal of Lipid Research. 45(4): 729-735
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Acetyl-L-Carnitine to Treat Depression in the Elderly

Acetyl-L-carnitine may be a useful treatment for mood disorders including depression. The exact reason for this is not known but it is thought that the nutrient acts to stabilise brain function by conferring neuroprotection from the disruptive influence of chronic stress. In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine may also improve energy metabolism in the tissues of the brain. The antidepressant effects of acetyl-L-carnitine have been investigated in elderly subjects with depression. In one study, researchers administered supplements of acetyl-L-carnitine to elderly subjects for between 1 and 2 months while their depression was monitored. The results of the study showed that the acetyl-L-carnitine was significantly effective at reducing the depressive symptoms in the elderly subjects and this was apparent in the subjects with the most severe depression. Therefore acetyl-L-carnitine may be a useful supplement to use for those individuals with depression, particularly if the depression is considered more severe. 

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Tempesta, E., Casella, L., Pirrongelli, C., Janiri, L., Calvani, M. and Ancona, L. 1987. L-acetylcarnitine in depressed elderly subjects. A cross-over study vs placebo. Drugs under Experimental and Clinical Research. 13(7): 417-423
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Acetyl-L-Carnitine Against Depression

Acetyl-L-carnitine is a derivative of the nutrient factor L-carnitine. Evidence suggests that acetyl-L-carnitine is able to significantly affect brain behaviour through changes in energy metabolism and its neuroprotective effects. In one double-blind placebo controlled trial involving human subjects, researchers administered 2000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine for 40 days  to a group of depressed individuals who had not been taking pharmaceutical treatment for their condition for at least 15 days. The results of the study showed that the acetyl-L-carnitine supplement caused significant improvements in mood, although benefits varied between subjects, with 6 patients being particularly benefited. In addition there were significantly lower cortisol levels in those patients that took the acetyl-L-carnitine compared to those that took the placebo. These results suggest that acetyl-L-carnitine may be a useful treatment for depression in clinically diagnosed patients with depressive-like symptoms. 

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Gecele, M., Francesetti, G. and Meluzzi, A. 1991. Acetyl-L-carnitine in aged subjects with major depression: clinical efficacy and effects on the circadian rhythm of cortisol. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders. 2(6): 333-337
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Acetyl-L-Carnitine To Treat Anxiety

Acetyl-L-carnitine is a derivative of the nutrient L-carnitine. L-Carnitine is synthesised by animals and is found mainly in muscle tissue. Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to possess specific effects on the brain because it may improve brain energy metabolism and may have neuroprotective effects. Studies have investigated the effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on anxiety-like behaviors in animals to understand the potential use of supplements of acetyl-L-carnitine to treat mood disorders. In one study researchers administered acetyl-L-carnitine to a group of rats and then exposed them to experimental stress. The results of the study showed that acetyl-L-carnitine conferred significant anti-anxiety on the rats at some of the doses investigated, but not others. The researchers concluded that there was a U-shaped response curve and that the administered dose was an important factor in the effectiveness of the use of acetyl-L-carnitine to treat anxiety. This supports human studies which suggest acetyl-L-carnitine is an effective anxiolytic. 

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Levine, J., Kaplan, Z., Pettegrew, J. W., McClure, R. J., Gershon, S., Buriakovsky, I. and Cohen, H. 2005. Effect of intraperitoneal acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) on anxiety-like behaviours in rats. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 8(1): 65-74
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Dairy and Protein: Basic Weight Loss Foods

Many people overcomplicate weight loss and this can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to succeed. Weight loss, actually fat loss, is simply a process by which the body’s ability to catabolise fat is encouraged. There are a number of simple strategies that can be used to encourage this process, and one of them is to increase the dairy and protein content of the diet. Higher dairy and high protein diets have been consistently shown to have beneficial weight loss effects. There may be multiple reasons for this, but perhaps the most likely is that they are slow to digest and this can improve the glycaemic response from meals preventing the unnecessary development of insulin resistance and the negative fat gain effects that stem from this problem. Another benefit of a higher dairy and high protein diet is that it may also promote muscle mass gains, which is in itself protective of weight gain and obesity. Higher dairy and high protein diets therefore confer favourable body composition changes which can also benefit health. 

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Josse, A. R., Atkinson, S. A., Tarnopolsky, M. A. and Phillips, S. M. 2011. Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet-and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women. Journal of Nutrition. 141(9): 1626-1634
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