Cells show signs of faster aging after depression - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Cells show signs of faster aging after depression

Updated:
© iStockphoto.com / Diane Diederich © iStockphoto.com / Diane Diederich

By Brenda Goodman
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The cells of people who have had depression may age more quickly, a new study suggests.

Dutch researchers compared cell structures called telomeres in more than 2,400 people with and without depression.

Like the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces, telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes to protect the cell's DNA from damage. Telomeres get a bit shorter each time a cell divides, so they are useful markers for aging.

The researchers found that the telomeres of people who had ever been depressed were significantly shorter -- about 83 to 84 base pairs of DNA shorter, on average -- than those of people who had never suffered from depression.

The results remained even after researchers accounted for a host of lifestyle factors that can also damage DNA, such as heavy drinking and cigarette smoking.

Since people naturally lose about 14 to 20 base pairs of DNA in the telomeres each year, the researchers said the difference represents about four to six years of advanced aging.

The study showed only an association between depression and shorter telomeres, and didn't prove a cause-and-effect link. The researchers said they aren't entirely sure what the shorter telomeres might mean in depression.

On one hand, study author Josine Verhoeven said, it could be that having shorter telomeres somehow sets a person up for mental troubles. But it's more likely that depression causes damage that leaves traces even at the cellular level, she said.

Depression is known to disrupt many physical systems. It alters hormones, suppresses the immune function and changes how nerves work. People with a history of depression have greater risks for diseases of aging, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancer.

"Results like ours suggest that psychological distress, as experienced by depressed persons, has a large, detrimental impact on the wear and tear of a person's body, resulting in accelerated biological aging," said Verhoeven, a doctoral researcher at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The study was published online Nov. 12 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

One expert said the study is significant in the number of people it involved.

"The strength of this report is its size," said Etienne Sibellie, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. He is studying how depression ages the brain.

Sibellie said previous research on the same question had mixed results -- probably because the studies were too limited to pick up the effect, which is small and varies from person to person.

"It's a small effect, but it's real," he said.

The next question science needs to answer, Sibellie said, is whether telomere shortening really matters and if reversing it could improve health. Other studies have shown that a healthier diet, exercise and measures to control stress may lengthen telomeres.

"It's just not known whether it has an impact on cell function," he said. "If that's the case, it has potential therapeutic importance."

More information

Head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on healthy aging.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Health WatchMore>>

  • House approves VA health care overhaul

    House approves VA health care overhaul

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 9:12 PM EDT2014-07-31 01:12:40 GMT
    With a new Veterans Affairs secretary in place and an August recess looming, Congress is moving quickly to approve a compromise bill to refurbish the VA and improve veterans' health care.
    The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to help veterans avoid long waits for health care that have plagued the Veterans Affairs Department for years.
  • $1,000 Sovaldi now hepatitis treatment of choice

    $1,000 Sovaldi now hepatitis treatment of choice

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 8:58 PM EDT2014-07-31 00:58:45 GMT
    A $1,000-per-pill drug that insurers are reluctant to pay for has quickly become the treatment of choice for a liver-wasting viral disease that affects more than 3 million Americans.
    The price is sky-high, but so is demand. A new $1,000-per-pill drug has become the treatment of choice for Americans with hepatitis C, a liver-wasting disease that affects more than 3 million.
  • Deportations halted at New Mexico processing center

    Deportations halted at New Mexico processing center

    Deportations halted at New Mexico processing center

    Artesia, NM - Officials at an immigration processing center in new mexico announced they will be halting all deportations for the time being.
    Artesia, NM - Officials at an immigration processing center in new mexico announced they will be halting all deportations for the time being.
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.