A new Canadian study has found that there may be an obesity gene that can predispose a person to developing depression.
Previous studies that have been conducted on families and twins have suggested that depression may possess a genetic component; however, so far scientists have not been able to locate a real genetic link to the condition until now. It took a different approach for researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., to find just a link, but they did it when they did some tests to see how or if obesity genes may be linked with depression.
“We found the first gene predisposing to depression with consistent results,” said David Meyre, an associate professor in clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster and a Canada Research Chair in genetic epidemiology.
The results of this test have been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Most people assume that obese people likely become depressed due to their perception of how they look, which can cause poor self-esteem. However the results of these studies have posed a different reason for the depression. Meyre has stated that since people who have the gene that predisposes some people to obesity aren’t necessarily always depressed, those people may be immune to depression.
“This suggests that the FTO gene may have a broader role than initially thought with an effect on depression and other common psychiatric disorders,” the researchers wrote.
For this study, researchers analyzed FTO gene mutations in 6,591 people who were suffering from depression. They also analyzed 21,000 others that didn’t have depression. Meyre has stated that since the results of the analysis were modest in nature, there aren’t any clinical applications. He also stated that the gene shows up in different degrees in people, and that this was dependent on the person’s ethnicity. More studies will have to be conducted to confirm these findings.
Once a patient is diagnosed with depression, doctors often prescribe SSRI medications like Paxil to treat it. However, Paxil has been linked to patients suffering from suicidal and violent thoughts and behavior as well as birth defects (PPHN, spina bifida, neural tube defects, oral clefts) in babies whose mothers take Paxil while pregnant.