Jennifer Yelle & Cassie Dorschner '12

Is there a correlation between depression and inflammation in college students?

The college population has many stressors in life which can elicit depressive symptoms and other factors may contribute to depressive symptoms. Academic pressures, relationships, developmental challenges, etc. Depressed individuals have high psychological stress which elevates C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker which can be measured through the blood. CRP levels indicate the extent of inflammation and elevated CRP appears to be associated with severe depressive symptoms. If CRP levels can be used to indicate the severity of depressive symptoms then dietary means can be used to decrease inflammation and reduce depressive symptoms.

Purpose: Our present study is intended to determine the extent to which CRP levels are correlated with depressive symptoms in college-aged students.

Methods: The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the College of Saint Benedict. All participants completed an informed consent. A total of 70 participants were recruited by a mass email message and were screened regarding anti-depressant or corticosteroid use. Individuals meeting these selection criteria were invited to participate. Depressive symptoms were measured by an online version of the Inventory of College Students' Recent Life Experiences (ICSRLE) and C-reactive protein levels were measured using a small sample of blood, hs CRP cassette and Cholestech LDX system. Analysis of the data will be done using a correlation coefficient (r value) between CRP levels and scores on the ICSRLE.

Results: Data is currently being analyzed and we anticipate that participants with CRP levels higher than 3 mg/L scored 147 points or higher on the ICSRLE indicating a correlation between high CRP levels and high amounts of depressive symptoms. On the ICSRLE survey, an individual score of 49 or less will indicate low levels for depressive symptoms, 50-147 are moderate symptoms, and greater than 147 are high levels. CRP levels greater than 3 mg/L reflect high inflammation levels, however; less than 1 mg/L reflect optimal levels.

Conclusion: C-reactive protein levels may be used to measure the severity of depressive symptoms. If there is a correlation between CRP levels and depressive symptoms then CRP levels may be influenced by altering diet with omega-3 fatty acids and benefit depression.

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Is there a correlation between depression and inflammation in college students?

Research Advisor: Jayne Byrne, MS, RDN