Psychosomatic Medicine

Skip Navigation LinksHome > April 2007 - Volume 69 - Issue 3 > Depressive Symptoms, omega-6:omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Inflam...
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Psychosomatic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3180313a45
Original Articles

Depressive Symptoms, omega-6:omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Inflammation in Older Adults

Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K. PhD; Belury, Martha A. PhD; Porter, Kyle MAS; Beversdorf, David Q. MD; Lemeshow, Stanley PhD; Glaser, Ronald PhD

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Objective: To address how interactions between polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels and depressive symptoms were related to proinflammatory cytokine synthesis. Depression and stress promote proinflammatory cytokine production. Dietary intakes of omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) PUFAs also influence inflammation; high n-6:n-3 ratios enhance proinflammatory cytokine production, although n-3 has anti-inflammatory properties.

Methods: Blood samples from 43 older adults (mean age = 66.67 years, SD = 10.09) provided data on PUFAs and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-6, and IL-6 soluble receptor (sIL-6r). Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.

Results: Depressive symptoms and n-6:n-3 ratios worked together to enhance proinflammatory cytokines beyond the contribution provided by either variable alone, with substantial variance explained by their interaction: 13% for IL-6 and 31% for TNF-α, whereas full models accounted for 18% and 40%, respectively. Although predicted cytokine levels were consistent across n-6:n-3 ratios with low depressive symptoms, higher n-6:n-3 ratios were associated with progressively elevated TNF-α and IL-6 levels as depressive symptoms increased. Higher levels of sIL-6r were associated with higher n-6:n-3 ratios. Six individuals who met the criteria for major depressive disorder had higher n-6:n-3 ratios and TNF-α, IL-6, and sIL-6r levels than those who did not meet the criteria; excluding these six individuals reduced the variance explained by the depressive symptoms and n-6:n-3 ratio interaction.

Conclusions: Diets with high n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios may enhance the risk for both depression and inflammatory diseases.

AA = arachidonic acid; BMI = body mass index; CES-D = Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale; DHA = docosahexanoic acid; EPA = eicosapentaenoic acid; IL-6 = interleukin-6; sIL-6r = IL-6 soluble receptor; n-3 = omega-3; n-6 = omega-6; NF-κB = nuclear factor kappa B; PSQI = Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index; PUFA = polyunsaturated fatty acid; TNF-α = tumor necrosis factor-α.

Copyright © 2007 by American Psychosomatic Society

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