Arginine levels in the body are reduced for people suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), finds a study at the University of Eastern Finland.The amino acid arginine is used by the body to produce nitric oxide, which acts as an immune defense mediator and also plays an important role in vascular regulation. Global arginine bioavailability ratio (GABR) helps to measure the quantity of nitric oxide that can be produced in the body and people with less GABR are at a risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
"It is possible that depression-induced inflammatory responses lead to reduced arginine levels. This may result in insufficient production of nitric oxide for the needs of the nervous system and circulation. However, we don't know yet what exactly causes reduced arginine bioavailability in people with depression," says Doctoral Student Toni Ali-Sisto, the lead author of the study.
The study carried out by the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital involved 99 adults with diagnosed major depressive disorder and 253 non-depressed controls. The concentrations of three amino acids, namely arginine, citrulline and ornithine, were analysed from their fasting glucose samples, and this data was used to calculate their GABRs. Symmetric and asymmetric dimethylarginine concentrations were also measured, as they both play a role in the production of nitric oxide. The findings were then compared between the depressed and the non-depressed controls. The study also analysed whether these concentrations changed in people with depression during a follow-up of eight months, and whether remission of depression had an effect on the concentrations.
People with depression had weaker arginine bioavailability than their non-depressed controls. The study did not find significant differences in the symmetric and asymmetric dimethylarginine concentrations. The use of anti-depressants or anti-psychotics did not affect the concentrations, either.
Contrary to the researchers' expectations, there were no clear differences in the concentrations measured from people who had recovered from depression and people who remained depressed.
"Arginine bioavailability was slightly higher in people who had recovered from depression than in people who remained depressed. However, a more extensive set of data and a longer follow-up period are necessary for estimating arginine's role in depression recovery."