Researchers may have found another piece of the puzzle to help those suffering from depression.
A new study published in the journal Science has found that eating too many burgers and too much ice cream may be triggering bipolar, anxiety and other mood disorders — as well as inhibiting the effectiveness of treatments.
Foods such as meat and diary are high in glycine, an amino acid that delays signals to the brain.
By eliminating these treats, people may be more responsive to medications.
“There are limited medications for people with depression,” lead author Kirill Martemyanov, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Florida, said in a statement. “Most of them take weeks before they kick in, if they do at all. New and better options are really needed.”
In 2020, an estimated 21 million adult Americans had a major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Medical expenses tied to depression cost $326 billion in the US annually, according to Southwest News Service.
This new research may help develop medications that are faster acting.
Martemyanov and his team have spent years working toward the discovery.
“It’s amazing how basic science goes. Fifteen years ago we discovered a binding partner for proteins we were interested in, which led us to this new receptor,” Martemyanov told SWNS. “We’ve been unspooling this for all this time.”
In a 2018 study, they discovered a receptor, called GPR158, was involved in stress-induced depression in mice. If the mice did not have the gene for the GPR158 receptor, they responded well to stress.
The researchers had a breakthrough in 2021, when the Martemyanov team solved the structure of GPR158. They found that it resembled bacteria rather than human cells.
“We were barking up the completely wrong tree before we saw the structure,” Martemyanov explained. “We said, ‘Wow, that’s an amino acid receptor. There are only 20,’ so we screened them right away and only one fit perfectly. That was it. It was glycine.”
Glycine is marketed and sold as a nutritional supplement that may improve mood. Depending on the type of cell, it can send either slow-down or stimulating signals, according to SWNS.
“We are in desperate need of new depression treatments,” Martemyanov said. “If we can target this with something specific, it makes sense that it could help. We are working on it now.”