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Stress disrupts sugar metabolism and triggers depression

Stress disrupts sugar metabolism and triggers depression


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The link between stress and depression

Persistent stress is considered a risk factor for the development of mental illnesses such as depression. A German team of researchers recently identified why this connection exists. Apparently, permanent stress has a negative impact on sugar metabolism in the brain and causes mental illness.

Researchers at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University Medicine Mainz and the German Resilience Center Mainz (DRZ) have identified the connection between chronic stress and certain mental illnesses. In the animal model, the study team was able to show how stress changes the sugar metabolism in the brain and thus triggers the diseases. The results were recently published in the renowned science journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS).

Stress, sugar metabolism and psychological problems go hand in hand

Chronic stress has a negative effect on the metabolism. Stress in particular affects the sugar metabolism. The researchers were able to demonstrate for the first time that stress, sugar metabolism and psychological symptoms are directly related. For example, the mice examined showed a disorder of glucose metabolism in connection with stress, which affected both the blood and the brain.

Why is sugar metabolism important for the brain?

"The human brain requires a lot of energy even under rest conditions," wrote the Mainz research team in a press release on the study results. The brain needs about ten times more energy from other organs. So this organ is highly dependent on a good energy supply. The brain is often very sensitive to changes in sugar metabolism.

Stressed mice

For their investigations, the researchers led by Professor Dr. Marianne Müller a group of mice under stress for a long time. Over time, the scientists were able to document how a clear disturbance of glucose regulation in the brain developed in the animals. This disorder persisted even after the stress phase had ended. According to the study, it was also striking that the brain areas, which are responsible for learning and memory functions, were particularly affected

Not everyone reacted equally strongly

In the course of the evaluation, the researchers found that not all animals reacted equally strongly to the ongoing stress. There was a particularly sensitive group that reacted with a sharp increase in the glucose concentration in the brain. From this sugar metabolism disorder, the animals developed a memory function disorder. In contrast, there was also a subset of the mice that showed very little change from the stress. This group gave similar test results as unstressed animals from the control group.

First attempts at treatment

In further tests, the team tried to treat the metabolic disorder with the diabetes drug empagliflozin in order to normalize the metabolism. This led to improved memory performance in the sensitive group of mice. However, empagliflozin was associated with poor memory performance in animals that responded less to stress.

Of humans and mice

"Since people also react to adverse life situations to varying degrees in a vulnerable or mentally resistant manner, knowledge about the causal relationship between these factors is of high medical relevance," emphasizes Professor Dr. Marianne Müller. These findings could lead to a personalized treatment against the late effects of stress.

Stress and mental illnesses are constantly increasing

The results of the study could explain why stress and mental illnesses are becoming more widespread in the population. However, the professor sums up whether it is still necessary to find out whether the findings can also be transferred to humans. (vb)

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