ETSU’s Campbell conducts investigation of depression, diet connection

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JOHNSON CITY (July 23, 2014) — East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Sharon Campbell is part of an interdisciplinary team using a university Research Development Committee grant to study the relationship between depression and diet.

Campbell, a faculty member in the Biomedical Sciences Department of ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine, will be joined in the project by Biomedical Sciences colleague Dr. Greg Ordway, Dr. Russ Brown of the Department of Psychology and Dr. Aashish Morani, a post-doctoral fellow working in Campbell’s lab.

“An estimated 20 million American adults live with major depression,” Campbell says. “It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for those in the 15-44 age range.”

Medication is available for the treatment of depression, but, Campbell explains, “various drugs are only 30-50 percent effective, and a mere 17 percent of people who take antidepressants experience full remission.

“The underlying mechanisms behind depression are not known,” Campbell says, but one factor in most cases is psychosocial stress. “Such stress results in the formation of free radicals, and they result in diseases of inflammation. A change in diet improves symptoms of inflammatory-based diseases—in particular, following the Mediterranean diet has provided relief from the effects of depression and anxiety.”

The proposed study will examine whether symptoms of despair and losing interest in activities that were once pleasurable result from the production of free radicals and whether a diet rich in vitamin E may quench the free radicals.

“To date,” Campbell says, “we have found that mixed tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E found in palm oil, reduced ‘depressive-like’ behavior in rats that are under stress.

“The ultimate goal of this research is to determine which free radicals are produced during depressive episodes, so that treatments that target these free radicals may be developed.” 

For further information, contact Campbell at 423-439-2029 or .             

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