Researchers at McMaster University have discovered new genetic evidence about why some people are happier than others.
McMaster scientists have uncovered evidence that the gene FTO – the major genetic contributor to obesity – is associated with an eight per cent reduction in the risk of depression. In other words, it's not just an obesity gene but a "happy gene" as well.
The research appears in a study published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The paper was produced by senior author David Meyre, associate professor in clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and a Canada Research Chair in genetic epidemiology; first author Dr. Zena Samaan, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, and members of the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.
"The difference of eight per cent is modest and it won't make a big difference in the day-to-day care of patients," Meyre said. "But, we have discovered a novel molecular basis for depression."
In the past, family studies on twins, and brothers and sisters, have shown a 40 per cent genetic component in depression. However, scientific studies attempting to associate genes with depression have been "surprisingly unsuccessful" and produced no convincing evidence so far, Samaan said.
The McMaster discovery challenges the common perception of a reciprocal link between depression and obesity: That obese people become depressed because of their appearance and social and economic discrimination; depressed individuals may lead less active lifestyles and change eating habits to cope with depression that causes them to become obese.
"We set out to follow a different path, starting from the hypothesis that both depression and obesity deal with brain activity. We hypothesized that obesity genes may be linked to depression," Meyre said.
The McMaster researchers investigated the genetic and psychiatric status of patients enrolled in the EpiDREAM study led by the Population Health Research Institute, which analyzed 17,200 DNA samples from participants in 21 countries.
In these patients, they found the previously identified obesity predisposing genetic variant in FTO was associated with an eight per cent reduction in the risk of depression. They confirmed this finding by analyzing the genetic status of patients in three additional large international studies.
Meyre said the fact the obesity gene's same protective trend on depression was found in four different studies supports their conclusion. It is the "first evidence" that an FTO obesity gene is associated with protection against major depression, independent of its effect on body mass index, he said.
This is an important discovery as depression is a common disease that affects up to one in five Canadians, said Samaan.
McMaster University: http://www.mcmaster.ca
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
With funding from the Defense Department, scientists have begun work on devices that would use electric pulses to realign a memory process gone awry
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration released a vital set of numbers about the routine use of antibiotics …
Side order of veg with that mammoth leg? The Neanderthal diet was probably more varied than we think – using vegetables, herbs and different cooking techniques
An exoskeleton that enables movement and provides tactile feedback has helped eight paralysed people regain sensation and move previously paralysed muscles
A female western gray whale set a new record swimming from Russia to Mexico and back, a total of 13,988 miles, in 172 days
Scientists operating a remote-controlled vehicle about 2,000 feet below water get a rare glimpse of a sperm whale. CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers and Elaine Quijano report on the video.
According to the experts, "blinking is like a kitty kiss"
Genetic profiling of cancer cells can help guide treatment, but such profiles can be ambiguous. Results would be more accurate if all labs tested normal cells from each patient, too.
Researchers in Kenya uncover tools dated to 3.3 million years ago, long before the first humans, as we know them, walked the Earth.
Researchers are facing up to methodological flaws that plague functional magnetic resonance imaging, but the interpretative problems might be harder to solve