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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 29-33

A controlled study on serum lipid parameters in individuals with and without major depressive disorder

Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Date of Submission04-Jul-2019
Date of Acceptance30-Mar-2020
Date of Web Publication23-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Bilal Ahmad Bhat
Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjmsr.mjmsr_26_19

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Background: Evidence seems to suggest that dysfunction in many biological functions is associated with major depressive disorder (MDD). Literature suggests a possible link between different lipid parameters and depression. Aims: The aim was to study lipid parameters in patients with MDD and to find a correlation between these lipid parameters and depression. Settings and Design: This was a case–control study conducted in outpatient services of the department of psychiatry. Materials and Methods: A total of 100 participants were included in this study. Fifty drug-naïve depression cases as assessed clinically and with Hamilton rating scale for depression were included in the study group, whereas control group comprised fifty normal individuals. Lipid parameters were obtained from fasting blood samples in both groups. Statistical Analysis: Data analysis was performed using SPSS 16 software. Continuous variables were summarized as mean and standard deviation, whereas categorical variables were summarized as frequency and percentage. Results: The mean total cholesterol (TC) and the mean low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) were significantly low in the study group than the control group. When compared with severity of depression, there was a significant negative correlation with TC (r = −0.710; P = 0.0001), LDL-C (r = −0.608; P = 0.0001), and triglycerides (TG) (r = −0.289; P = 0.042). Conclusions: Drug-naïve individuals with MDD had significantly low TC and LDL-C in comparison to normal individuals. There was a significant negative correlation between the severity of depression and TC, LDL-C, and TG.

Keywords: Lipid parameters, major depressive disorder, total cholesterol

How to cite this article:
Bhat BA, Dar SA, Hussain A. A controlled study on serum lipid parameters in individuals with and without major depressive disorder. Muller J Med Sci Res 2020;11:29-33

How to cite this URL:
Bhat BA, Dar SA, Hussain A. A controlled study on serum lipid parameters in individuals with and without major depressive disorder. Muller J Med Sci Res [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jan 25];11:29-33. Available from: https://www.mjmsr.net/text.asp?2020/11/1/29/304590

  Introduction Top

Major depressive disorder (MDD), a leading cause of disability worldwide, is a common mental disorder affecting more than 300 million people globally and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.[1] With moderate-to-severe intensity and its long-lasting course, it can cause a serious health problem in sufferer, and at its worst can lead to suicide.[1] Evidence seems to suggest that dysfunction in many biological functions is associated with MDD. An apparently independent increase in the death of patients on lipid-lowering drugs due to suicides, accidents, and homicidal violence prompted several researchers to focus on a potential link between low serum lipid levels and MDD and suicide.[2],[3] In routine clinical practice, basic lipid parameters used in cardiovascular risk identification include total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides (TG). However, there is a lack of well-documented evidence for these lipid parameters as laboratory biomarkers to be predictive of depression. In the current literature, contradictory findings exist with regard to a possible link between depression and these lipid parameters. Various previous studies have found lower TC in patients with MDD in comparison to controls.[4],[5],[6] Other studies indicate that higher levels of TC might be related to depression.[7],[8] Similarly, extensive assessment of other lipid parameters, i.e., LDL-C, HDL-C, and TG in various studies gave inconsistent findings.[9],[10],[11] Further, some studies have found that an effective treatment of depression with pharmacotherapy modulates some of these altered lipid parameters.[11],[12] Whether this is primarily the effect of antidepressants or due to the amelioration of depressive symptoms is not clear.[4] With this complex association between MDD and serum lipid parameters, there is a need to further explore this association. In addition, there is no study from our area which has looked into this association. Therefore, we planned to conduct a study to compare the serum lipid parameters, i.e., TC, LDL-C, HDL-C, and TG of treatment-naïve MDD patients with normal individuals.

  Materials and Methods Top

This study was conducted on patients visiting outpatient service of the Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, in January 2019. Fifty normal weight drug-naive first-episode depression patients of age 18–60 years diagnosed as per the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Diagnostic Criteria for Research (ICD-10-DCR) were included in this study.[13] A group of fifty normal weight age- and gender-matched healthy individuals who have a score of <2 on General Health Questionnaire and were without any current psychiatric diagnosis were also selected, using a nonprobability purposive sampling, during the same time period as a control group for comparison.[14] A written and informed consent was obtained from all the participants included in our study in an easily understandable language. Approval was obtained from the ethics committee of our institute. Those persons, from both cases and controls, with other major psychiatric diagnosis, with known chronic medical or surgical illness, with history of dyslipidemia, on treatment for dyslipidemia, on oral contraceptives, with body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 kg/m2 or above 25 kg/m2 and not falling in the age group of 18–60 years were excluded from the study. Sociodemographic data and clinical details were recorded. The diagnosis was made clinically as per ICD-10-DCR. Hamilton rating scale for depression (HAM-D) was used to assess severity.[15] The height and weight of the patients were measured to calculate BMI using the formula: BMI = weight/height2 (kg/m2). A fasting blood sample was taken to estimate serum cholesterol, LDL-C and HDL-C, and TG levels in both the groups. Data analysis was performed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 16 (IBM, Armonk, NY, USA). Continuous variables were summarized as mean and standard deviation, whereas categorical variables were summarized as frequency and percentage. Means between the two groups were compared by independent samples t-test. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to calculate the correlation between the severity of depression and different lipid parameters in study group. The P values were two tailed and significance was set at P < 0.05.

  Results Top

The mean age in the study group was 39.90 ± 9.70 years, whereas it was 39.26 ± 9.66 years for the control group. Females constituted 68% of the sample both in study and control groups. Fifty-eight percent of the individuals in both study and control groups were from rural background. Seventy percent of patients in the study sample were homemakers, whereas 66% of the controls were homemakers. The mean HAM-D score in the study group was 17.18 ± 3.66, whereas it was 3.48 ± 0.505 in the control group. HAM-D rating of depression in study participants was moderate depression, severe depression, and very severe depression in 32%, 42%, and 26%, respectively. The mean BMI in the study group was 22.45 ± 1.67, whereas it was 22.64 ± 1.60 in the control group. The sociodemographic and other variables are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Sociodemographic and other variables

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The mean TC in the study group was 172.06 ± 23.85 mg/dl in comparison to 197.80 ± 23.01 mg/dl in the control group. The mean LDL-C in the study group was 91.56 ± 21.26 mg/dl, whereas it was 145.90 ± 39.24 mg/dl in the control group. The mean TG in the study group was 143.88 ± 84.63 mg/dl and in the control group, it was 145.10 ± 83.84 mg/dl. The mean HDL-C in the study group was 38.7 ± 3.25 mg/dl, whereas it was 38.84 ± 3.58 mg/dl in the control group. The mean TC level and the mean LDL-C level were significantly low in the study group than the control group. There was no significant difference in the mean TG level and mean HDL-C level between study group and control group. The serum lipid parameters of cases and controls are shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: Comparison of serum lipid parameters in the study and control groups

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When correlated with severity of depression (as measured by HAM-D), there was a significant negative correlation with TC (r = −0.710; P = 0.0001), LDL-C (r = −0.608; P = 0.0001), and TG (r = −0.289; P = 0.042), whereas a nonsignificant negative correlation with HDL-C (r = −0.204; P = 0.155).

  Discussion Top

In our study, TC and LDL-C were significantly low in the study group in comparison to the control group. Recent studies from India, on patients with endogenous depression, also found significantly low serum TC and LDL in depression patients in comparison to controls.[16],[17] Some of the previous studies have also found similar results with low levels of TC and LDL-C in patients with depression.[12],[18] The relationship between serum TC and mood disorders is complex.[6] Brain functioning and neurotransmission are dependent on cholesterol as it is important for the synthesis of neuroactive steroids which modulate different brain processes.[19] Although only 2% of body's weight is constituted by the brain, it contains almost 25% of body's cholesterol.[20] It has been suggested that a decrease in cell membrane cholesterol occurs in persons with a lower serum TC concentration.[21] Extracellular concentration of serotonin in the brain is controlled by the serotonin transporter (SERT), and it has been shown that membrane cholesterol modulates the activity of SERT.[22] Thus, a plausible link is provided between an altered brain uptake of serotonin and depression in patients with lower serum TC.[23] A study on fish testified the evolutionary origin of this low cholesterol-serotonin hypothesis in which the fish were chronically administered cholesterol-lowering statin drug. This study confirmed that the fish treated with statin exhibited reduced plasma cholesterol, reduced telencephalic indexes of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid/serotonin, and increased aggressive behavior when compared to fish not on statin drug.[24] Studies have found that antidepressant treatment modulates these dyslipidemia patterns in depressed patients.[12] A recent study on the effect of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on lipid parameters in depression found that the effective treatment of depression with ECT led to distinct effect on serum lipid pattern.[4] Whether these changes in lipid parameters are the effects of antidepressants and ECT or these are because of the amelioration of depressive symptoms with successful treatment is not clear. Aksay et al. in their study summarized that these changes in lipid parameters by effective nonpharmacological treatment of depression by ECT are most likely specific to the antidepressant effect of ECT.[4] A study on metabolic effects of antidepressant treatment by Eker et al. found a positive effect of antidepressants on lipid profile, but they suggested that improvement of depressive symptoms might have caused positive changes in lifestyle such as regular feeding and physical activity, consequent to which metabolic alterations, independent of drug use, occur in diseases that present with anxiety and depressive symptoms.[25]

In our study, there was no significant difference in HDL-C and TG between the two groups. Patra et al. in their study support our results and did not find any significant differences in serum TG and HDL between cases and controls.[17] However, Kale et al. differ from our study and found both of these parameters significantly low in depressed patients as compared to controls.[16] Further, there have been controversial findings in literature about different lipid parameters in patients with depression. For example, recently published three studies have found higher levels of TG, TC, and LDL-C and lower HDL-C levels in individuals with depressive disorder in comparison to healthy controls.[7],[26],[27] Another recent study found higher TG and higher HDL-C levels in individuals with depressive disorders.[28] Similarly, in a recent systematic review and meta-analysis on LDL-C levels in patients with depression, the studies in which LDL-C was taken as a continuous variable found a link between depression and low serum LDL-C, which was in contrast to the studies in which LDL-C was taken as a categorical variable.[29] These contradictory results in literature about lipid parameters in depression may be explained by a wide range of different study designs and methodological variations such as age range restriction, small sample size, and heterogeneous study populations.[9],[30] Other factors such as cortisol measurements and lifestyle-related factors such as dietary habits, alcohol use, or smoking behavior could explain these inconsistent findings in literature.

In our study, TC, LDL-C, and TG had a significant negative correlation with the severity of depression as measured on HAM-D, whereas HDL-C had a nonsignificant negative correlation. Kale et al. in a recent study from India support our results.[16] Another previous study also found a significant negative correlation between TC and severity of depression, but the correlation was not as strong as in our study (r = 0.27; P < 0.05).[18] However, like the lipid parameters, controversial studies with regard to the correlation between these lipid parameters and severity of depression are common in literature. Enko et al. found a significant positive correlation between severity of depression and TG (P = 0.027), TC (P = 0.048), and LDL-C (P = 0.018) concentrations and a nonsignificant negative correlation with HDL-C levels (P = 0.091).[26] Although a previous Finnish longitudinal study on the TG, LDL-C, and HDL-C levels during the childhood and early adulthood indicated a rapid increase in TG to be predictive of depression onset, this study has failed to demonstrate an association between any LDL-C or HDL-C pattern change and depressive symptoms.[31] A study from the recent past on the associations between serum lipids and MDD found that the association between severity of depression and lipids/lipoproteins attenuated after adjustment for covariates, especially BMI.[9]

Our results should be read with the following limitations. This was a cross-sectional study with cases and controls from two different groups, and changes in lipid parameters were not assessed longitudinally in the study group. Lifestyle-related factors such as alcohol use or smoking behavior, dietary habits, investigations to rule out medical illness, and family history of illness having an effect on lipid profiles were not taken into account, and all of these factors could confound our result. Hence, the generalizability of our results is limited.

  Conclusions Top

Drug-naïve individuals with MDD had significantly low TC and LDL-C in comparison to the healthy individuals. There was a significant negative correlation between the severity of depression and TC, LDL-C, and TG. However, as discussed in the above discussion, there are wide variations in the existing literature. To arrive at a common agreement and to fully elucidate the associations between MDD and blood lipid parameters, we suggest to conducting prospective longitudinal studies including follow-up measurements of blood lipid parameters while taking into account different variables affecting blood lipid levels.

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  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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