A Mix of Metabolic Factors With Depression Equals More Diabetes Risk

Metabolic risk factors for developing diabetes include being overweight, an inactive lifestyle, and having insulin resistance.

New research indicates that when these metabolic risk factors combine with symptoms of depression, the probability of type 2 diabetes onset significantly increases.

“Emerging evidence suggests that not depression, per se, but depression in combination with behavioral and metabolic risk factors increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions,” said researcher Norbert Schmitz, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal.

A Cycle of Symptoms

The Canadian investigators believe that metabolic factors and depression are conditions that exacerbate each other, creating a cycle of symptoms that can spin into diabetes.

People experiencing depression, for instance, have a difficult time adhering to medical advice about getting regular exercise, eating a healthier diet, or quitting smoking—actions that diminish metabolic risk factors. Simultaneously, the metabolic risk factors of being overweight and inactive contribute to depressive symptoms such as fatigue, poor self-image, and difficulty sleeping.

Depression may trigger some changes in the body’s metabolic processes as well, and certain antidepressant medications are associated with weight gain.

The researchers hope that by identifying people with metabolic and depressive symptoms, an integrated treatment plan that addresses both problems will disrupt the cycle created when each health issue fuels the other.

Know the Signs

We can also help break the metabolic-depression cycle, for ourselves and those we care about, by being aware of the symptoms involved and consulting with medical professionals when necessary.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless; tearfulness.
  • Anhedonia: loss of interest or inability to take pleasure in activities such as sports, personal interest, socializing, or sex.
  • Irritability, frustration, angry outbursts.
  • Anxiety, restlessness, or agitation.
  • Sleeping too much, or too little; tiredness, and lethargy.
  • Diminished appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Slow in speech, movement, or thought; difficulty with concentrating, remembering, and decision making.
  • Recurring or frequent thoughts about death; thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts.

Most of us temporarily experience many of these issues at various times. It's symptoms severe enough to interfere with everyday activities, and persist over time, that may be signs of a clinical depression.

Metabolic issues are more difficult to detect since the only uncomfortable and visible symptom may be a growing waistline.

Other than weight gain and inactivity, metabolic risk factors include aging, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, a family history of type 2 diabetes, a personal history of gestational diabetes, cardiovascular problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and being of Mexican-American descent.

Sources: Mayo Clinic/metabolic factors; Science Daily; Mayo Clinic/depression
Photo credit: Thomas Leuthard

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