Hi. I am a geneticist at the University of Barcelona, and, in collaboration with psychiatrists at the Hospital de Bellvitge, our group studies how genetics can influence obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

I am quite sure many of you have heard about OCD. Maybe you imagine OCD as just being insistent on having things perfectly organized, and spending some time doing just that. That does not sound too bad, right? Well, in fact, the thing about OCD is that people who suffer from it are excessively preoccupied with “intrusive” thoughts. I am sure at some point we all have had these kinds of thoughts, like “what if I didn’t turn off the stove” or “what if they had an accident”, or “what if I touched something contagious?”. The problem comes with the way to deal with these thoughts: for OCD patients these thoughts trigger intensely distressing feelings. And they feel the need to perform certain behaviours (the compulsion part of the disorder) to help relieve the stress caused by these obsessions. So they enter a cycle of obsessions and compulsions that may consume many hours of their time and get in the way of important activities.

It is increasingly clear that OCD has a biological basis, and genetics can help understand what contributes to the onset of OCD, and to its severity. This will help with the development of more effective treatments.

In this regard, we recently published our results regarding an exploratory analysis of the genetics of OCD severity. One of the reasons to look at genetics related to OCD severity is that factors related to genetic risk (early-onset, or familial OCD, for instance) tended to also be related with higher severity. In this study, we wanted to look at many different variants (over 300.000) throughout all the genome, in a set of 401 OCD patients. Our results found 55 genetic variants likely to play a role in OCD severity. Some of these variants were near genes that had already been connected to psychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder or schizophrenia. This is relevant because other works have highlighted that different psychiatric disorders may share risk caused by genetic variants: so different changes in the function of the same genes may affect different psychiatric disorders. Other variants may affect the function of genes that are related to the action of glutamate, a molecule that participates in the transmission of neural signals and that is known to be involved in OCD. Unfortunately, we did not find any definitive evidence of genetic involvement, but this was not unexpected, because we had a small set of cases, and this is a problem to pass statistical tests. But our results are the first step, and with additional groups performing similar studies, we might confirm the implication of these genes and variants in OCD severity.

REFERENCES:
Exploring genetic variants in obsessive-compulsive disorder severity: A GWAS approach.  J Affect Disord. 2020 Jan 29;267:23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.01.161

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What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the response of the body’s immune system against external factors that can put your health in danger. When this system feels it is attacked by something that may harm your health, it activates some molecules that are called cytokines in order to neutralize or avoid any damage so you can be safe.

Why is inflammation bad? What does it do?

Inflammation isn’t bad by itself, since its purpose is to protect our body. In some cases however, when the duration of this response is extended for too long- I’m talking about years- it can cause harmful effects to your health. Especially, it can affect the brain by active transport of cytokines throughout this organ.

Neuro-inflammation may occur if this process continues past early stages. Neuro-inflammation plays an important role in the development of mental diseases such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder (BD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), where elevated levels of inflammation have been found(1).

What causes inflammation? 

Inflammation can occur by different factors. Some of them could be: pathogens, injuries, chronic stress, and diseases like dermatitis, cystitis or bronchitis to mention a few.

Nutritional factors like overweight and poor diet quality can also trigger this process by increasing fat accumulation in our cells and damaging them (2). The exact mechanisms that are involved in these processes are still in research.

What decreases inflammation?

Research has found that adhering to a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, characterized by high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and nuts, can decrease inflammation and protect you against depressive symptoms and anxiety (3,4).

There is evidence that prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics (a combination of prebiotics and probiotics) can also help lowering inflammation. In addition, you should avoid eating pro-inflammatory foods that have been found to increase the risk of inflammation, and with it mental disorders. Some of these are refined carbohydrates, beverages with a lot of sugar added like soda, juice and sports drinks, processed meat and foods high in saturated fats (5).

What are anti-inflammatory foods

Anti-inflammatory foods are the contrast of pro-inflammatory foods. These are foods that have been found to promote or induce low levels of inflammation in our body, which may protect us against neurological disorders. Briefly, these foods include fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish and spices like curcuma (turmeric).

Here’s what YOU can do to minimize inflammation and improve your mental health.

Inflammation and Foods

This was co-authored by Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga, MD PhD psychiatrist and Head of Department of Psychiatry at Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona, Spain. He is also professor at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Sources

  1. Mitchell RHB, Goldstein BI. Inflammation in children and adolescents with neuropsychiatric disorders: A systematic review. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry [Internet]. Elsevier Inc; 2014;53(3):274–96. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.11.013
  2. Ogłodek EA, Just MJ. The Association between Inflammatory Markers (iNOS, HO-1, IL-33, MIP-1β) and Depression with and without Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Pharmacol Reports [Internet]. 2018;70:1065–72. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1734114017305923
  3. Lassale C, Batty GD, Baghdadli A, Jacka F, Sánchez-Villegas A, Kivimäki M, et al. Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Mol Psychiatry [Internet]. Springer US; 2018;1. Available from: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-018-0237-8
  4. Phillips CM, Shivappa N, Hébert JR, Perry IJ. Dietary inflammatory index and mental health: A cross-sectional analysis of the relationship with depressive symptoms, anxiety and well-being in adults. Clin Nutr. 2017;37.
  5. Shivappa N, Bonaccio M, Hebert JR, Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, Ruggiero E, et al. Association of proinflammatory diet with low-grade inflammation: results from the Moli-sani study. Nutrition. 2018;54:182–8.

 

 

 

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