News: New research reveals that women who are extremely underweight and obese are likely to be at an increased risk of developing common mood disorders like depression and anxiety due to low levels of ‘feel-good’ neurosteroid allopregnanolone.
Earlier research showed that allopregnanolone or “allo” is linked to depression and anxiety, which are mood disorders associated with anorexia nervosa and obesity. More than 50% of women with anorexia nervosa have depression or anxiety, and 43 % of adults who are obese have depression. But the chemical — and its impact on mood — has not been measured in anorexic or obese women.
Graziano Pinna, associate professor of psychiatry in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine aimed to investigate if women with anorexia nervosa and obesity have low allo levels adds to the picture that the role of allo is under-recognized in mood disorders.
Pinna’s team recruited –
- 12 women with anorexia nervosa and amenorrhea (stopped having their menstrual periods) whose body mass indices (BMI) were less than 18.5
- 12 normal-weight women with BMIs between 19 and 24
- 12 obese women with BMIs at 25 or higher.
None of the participants are diagnosed with depression or had a history of taking antidepressants. The average age of women was 26 years old. All the study participants completed the assessment of mental health, blood measurements of allo and analysis of other hormones.
The research team found that women with anorexia nervosa had blood levels of allo – 50 percent lower than they were in women with normal BMIs. Clinically obese women showed allo levels approximately 60 percent lower than women with normal weights. Also, the levels of allo in all women correlated with the severity of their depression and anxiety symptoms as measured by the questionnaires.
“Depression is an incredibly prevalent problem, especially in women, and also particularly at the extremes of the weight spectrum,” said Dr. Karen Miller. “The hope is that a greater understanding of mechanisms contributing to these disorders — including abnormalities in the regulation of hormones and their neuroactive metabolites — may lead to new targeted therapies in the future.”
To Know More, You May Refer To:
Dichtel, L., Lawson, E., Schorr, M. et al. Neuroactive Steroids and Affective Symptoms in Women Across the Weight Spectrum. Neuropsychopharmacol. 43, 1436–1444 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2017.269