Treating depression may help protect against type 2 diabetes by improving insulin resistance in patients who are at risk for diabetes according to new research.
“Basically the depressed people on medication looked like the non-depressed people in terms of insulin sensitivity,” lead researcher Julie Wagner of the University of Connecticut Health Center noted in an interview.
Type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is the most common form of diabetes and is characterized by the body not producing enough insulin, or the insulin that is produced is not working properly. Insulin resistance is a common indicator of type 2 diabetes.
The new research examined 55 people who were enrolled in a diabetic prevention program. Participants were on average 46 years old and obese, and most either had impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose intolerance — significant risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Participants were divided into three groups — depressed and being treated by an antidepressant, depressed and receiving no treatment, and no depression.
As expected, people who were in the depressed group had greater insulin resistance than those who were not depressed. However, those were who receiving treatment for the depression by taking antidepressants had normal insulin sensitivity similar to those who were not depressed and not taking antidepressants.
The difference remained even when physical activity was controlled for in the data, as it appeared to have no significant impact on insulin sensitivity in the groups studied.
The link between diabetes and depression has been noted in previous research, where people who have diabetes are at greater risk for depression. But it’s not been clear whether lifestyle factors such as being overweight and lack of exercise may contribute to the link of greater risk. The new research adds to the evidence base the importance of the biological components of type 2 diabetes.
More research is needed, however, exploring this link and understanding the mechanism of action in antidepressants that maintains normal levels of insulin sensitivity, according to the researchers.
Another study presented at the meeting of the American Diabetes Association in New Orleans found that adults with type 1 diabetes reported more symptoms of depression. The research, conducted by Dr. David Maahs and colleagues with the University of Colorado Health Science Center, also found that type 1 diabetes patients also reported more frequent use of antidepressant medication than adults without type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 is different from Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in children or in young adults and is referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes. It occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.
Source: American Diabetes Association