Ri Chae W, Nübel J, Baumert J, Gold SM, Otte C.

Introduction: Depression and obesity often occur comorbidly, and once both are present, they further increase the risk of developing other medical comorbidities, likely due to the underlying chronic low-grade inflammation. We investigated to what extent depression and obesity are associated with levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) in a nationally representative sample of the German adult population. Methods: We analyzed data from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults (DEGS1, N = 7115), and its mental health module (DEGS1-MH; N = 4483). Two different depression measures were used: current depressive symptoms assessed by the self-administered German version of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and major depressive disorder (MDD) in the last 12 months assessed by a modified German version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Obesity was defined by body mass index calculated from measured data. Associations with log(x+1)-transformed hsCRP levels were analyzed using multivariable linear regression models. Results: Obese participants with depressive symptoms had significantly higher hsCRP compared to non-obese participants with depressive symptoms adjusted for sociodemographic and behavioral variables and medication use. In non-obese individuals, depressive symptoms were inversely associated with hsCRP whereas MDD was not associated with hsCRP after adjustment for covariates. Additional analyses suggested symptom-specific associations of hsCRP as higher levels were linked to fatigue (β = 0.10, p < .001) while lower levels were linked to cognitive problems (β = -0.09, p < .001). Low SES, current smoking, lower levels of physical exercise, and the use of anti-inflammatory/anti-rheumatic medication and antidepressants were additional determinants of hsCRP in the fully adjusted models. Conclusions: Our data suggest that obesity status is more strongly associated with increased inflammation than depressive symptoms or MDD. The relationship between depression and hsCRP in our population-based sample is substantially influenced by obesity status as well as other medical factors, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the association between hsCRP and depression is symptom-specific rather than generalized.

Brain Behav Immun. 2022 Jul;103:223-231

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