December 07, 2022 – 08:09
Our microbiome, the billions of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies, controls many important body functions, including brain function. Joint research by Amsterdam UMC, UvA and Erasmus MC shows a relationship between microbiome composition and depression. This configuration is also associated with racial differences in the incidence of depression. The studies, which are based in part on data from the Helios study, appear today as a double publication in Nature Communications
A variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts, live in and in the human body. All of these microorganisms together are called the microbiome. The microbiome is essential for optimal physical functioning; For example by producing essential nutrients and protecting against pathogens. Disturbances in the microbiome increase the risk of several diseases. For example, there is growing evidence that brain diseases are also linked to disturbances in the microbiome.
The role of the microbiome
The largest study to date of the relationship between the microbiome and depression included 3211 subjects from the HELIOS study (see box). This research shows a clear relationship between microbiome composition and depression. A microbiome with less bacterial diversity, or one in which certain bacterial species are underrepresented, was associated with depression or more depressive symptoms in this study. This relationship was as strong as that for known risk factors for depression — such as smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and obesity. So the effect on the microbiome can be very important for treating depression. “Knowing which disturbances in the microbiome are important for depression opens up new possibilities for treatment and prevention. They are badly needed,” says Anja Lok, MD, a researcher at the Amsterdam Department of Psychiatry at UMC.
Previous HELIOS research has already shown racial differences in the composition of the microbiome on the one hand and the incidence of depression on the other. But is there a relationship between these differences? Researcher Jos Bosch from the UvA Department of Psychology: “It appears that racial differences in depression are indeed linked to racial differences in the microbiome. We don’t know exactly why this happens yet. This association was not due to lifestyle differences such as smoking, drinking, weight or exercise.” Sports, and deserves more research. For example, diet could play a role.” This is the first study to show that variance in depression between population groups is related to the composition of the microbiome.
Confirmation from the Rotterdam Study
It is important to determine whether the relationships found between the microbiome and depression can be confirmed by other studies. In the second article in Nature Communications, by researchers from Erasmus MC, data from the HELIUS study are compared with data from the ERGO study, also known as the Rotterdam Study (see box). This indicates that both studies confirm a consistent association between twelve groups of bacteria and the incidence of depression. This comparative study also offers an explanation: the twelve bacterial groups produce “neurotransmitters,” substances that play an important role in depression. “These findings clearly provide direction for future research into possible therapies, such as probiotics, prebiotics, synapses, fecal cultures, and lifestyle and diet,” says Anja Lok. At the UMC Amsterdam Department of Psychiatry, various studies are currently underway on ways to influence the microbiome in order to treat depression more effectively and in a personalized way.
About Helios Study
Amsterdam UMC and GGD Amsterdam started the HELIUS (Healthy Living in an Urban Environment) study in 2010: a study in which 23,000 people were followed for a long time. The aim of the research is to identify health differences among Amsterdammers from a multi-ethnic background in an urban setting. The Helios study focuses on common chronic diseases: cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, and mental disorders. the professor. Max Nieuwdorp leads the Microbiome Collection and has collected all microbiome data. The knowledge generated by Helios research helps to better address health problems and improve medical care.
About the ERGO study
ERGO (Erasmus Rotterdam Health Research) is a long-term, population-based study conducted by Erasmus MC on approximately 20,000 subjects aged 40 and over in the Ohmurd district of Rotterdam. The study looks at common health problems in aging. Thanks to this extensive research, more and more knowledge is becoming available about the origin and course of the disease in the elderly.
Source: Amsterdam UMC, UvA and Erasmus MC