Studies find growing evidence linking weight, physical activity, neuroplasticity and depression

Being over­weight can cause depres­sion — and exer­cise is an anti­dote, dual stud­ies con­firm (Run­ner’s World):

A large-scale study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter has found ‘robust evi­dence’ that being over­weight hikes up your risk of devel­op­ing depres­sion – but as fresh evi­dence con­firms, log­ging your morn­ing miles is one of the most effec­tive ways to fight back. Exer­cise jolts your brain into action, and not just because of the endor­phin high … ‘Obe­si­ty and depres­sion are both major glob­al health chal­lenges, and our study pro­vides the most robust evi­dence to date that high­er BMI caus­es depres­sion,’ said lead author Jess O’Lough­lin. ‘Under­stand­ing whether phys­i­cal or social fac­tors are respon­si­ble for this rela­tion­ship can help inform effec­tive strate­gies to improve men­tal health and wellbeing.’

Our research sug­gests that being fat­ter leads to a high­er risk of depres­sion, regard­less of the role of meta­bol­ic health,’ she con­tin­ues. ‘This sug­gests that both phys­i­cal health and social fac­tors, such as social stig­ma, both play a role in the rela­tion­ship between obe­si­ty and depres­sion’ … Exer­cise com­bats depres­sion with a one-two punch, the Ruhr-Uni­ver­sität Bochum team found: not only does it neu­tralise symp­toms, but it also increas­es the brain’s abil­i­ty to change, known as neuroplasticity.

For the study, they enlist­ed 41 peo­ple under­go­ing treat­ment for depres­sion and assigned half of them to a three-week exer­cise pro­gramme devel­oped by the sports sci­ence team from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Biele­feld (the oth­er group act­ed as a con­trol). The sci­en­tists estab­lished the sever­i­ty of par­tic­i­pants’ depres­sive symp­toms both before and after the pro­gramme and record­ed neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty using tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stimulation.

At the end of the three weeks, depres­sive symp­toms decreased among par­tic­i­pants who com­plet­ed the exer­cise pro­gramme, while neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty ‘increased significantly’.

The Studies:

High­er adi­pos­i­ty and men­tal health: causal infer­ence using Mendelian ran­dom­iza­tion (Human Mol­e­c­u­lar Genet­ics). From the Abstract:

… Our study pro­vides fur­ther evi­dence that high­er BMI caus­es high­er odds of depres­sion and low­ers well-being. Using genet­ics to sep­a­rate out meta­bol­ic and psy­choso­cial effects, our study sug­gests that in the absence of adverse meta­bol­ic effects high­er adi­pos­i­ty remains causal to depres­sion and low­ers well-being.

Phys­i­cal Activ­i­ty Reduces Clin­i­cal Symp­toms and Restores Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in Major Depres­sion (Fron­tiers in Psy­chi­a­try). From the Abstract:

…In sum­ma­ry, PA improved symp­toms of MDD and restored the defi­cient neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. Impor­tant­ly, both changes were strong­ly relat­ed on the indi­vid­ual patients’ lev­el, high­light­ing the key role of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in the patho­phys­i­ol­o­gy and the clin­i­cal rel­e­vance of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-enhanc­ing inter­ven­tions for the treat­ment of MDD.

News in Context:

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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