Using biological measurements to identify and predict mental illness has become more popular over the years. Although many mental health disorders have no clear cause, biological measurements, or biomarkers, may lead to a better understanding of how certain disorders work and the best treatment methods. Apolipoprotein B-100, otherwise known as ApoB-100, is one such biomarker that’s been studied in relation to mental illness, particularly depression. The ApoB-depression link is relatively new, but it could change how depression treatment is approached and administered in the future.
Keep reading to discover what ApoB-100 is, how it’s measured and what it could mean for future mental health treatment.
What Is Apolipoprotein?
Apolipoproteins are the main compounds that form lipoproteins, which transport lipids or fats, such as cholesterol, throughout the body. These fats can’t travel in your blood on their own, so the proteins provide them with the structure needed for transportation. There are two main types of apolipoproteins: apolipoprotein A1 (Apo A1) and apolipoprotein B (ApoB).
Apo A1 is the main protein found in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. The higher your Apo A1 levels are, the lower your risk becomes. Meanwhile, ApoB is the main protein found in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and ultra-low-density lipoproteins. It helps fat get through the walls of arteries, resulting in plaque buildup and causing detrimental health effects, such as increasing your risk of heart disease.
Several factors can cause high ApoB levels, including:
- Lack of exercise
- Carrying excess weight
- Eating foods high in saturated and trans fat, such as butter, cream and margarine
There are two types of ApoB, ApoB-48 and ApoB-100, which work together to move fats throughout your body. Overall, lower ApoB levels reduce your risk of heart disease. To achieve this, it’s important to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating high-fiber foods and losing any excess weight.
How ApoB Is Measured
An ApoB blood test can measure your risk of heart and blood vessel disease. During an ApoB test, a nurse or lab technician draws blood from your arm and sends it in for analysis. If your test results come back normal, it means you have appropriate lipoprotein levels and a low risk for heart disease.
Abnormal test results can either mean you have high ApoB levels and an increased risk for heart disease or low ApoB levels, which may indicate an underlying condition preventing your body from producing apolipoproteins or lipoproteins. One study suggests individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) tend to have higher LDL levels and an increased risk of heart disease.
ApoB-Depression Link: What the Emerging Research Says
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, affecting 280 million people worldwide. Although it’s mostly associated with mood disturbances, it can also increase your risk of developing other illnesses and experiencing an overall poorer quality of life. For example, cardiovascular diseases are more commonly found in people with depression than in those without it.
Certain heart diseases can also lead to depression. Research suggests myocardial infarction is commonly followed by acute or chronic depressive episodes, which can adversely affect physical outcomes. Many forms of cardiovascular diseases are caused by accumulating LDL in the blood vessel walls, and considerable research shows people with MDD tend to have higher LDL levels, further supporting the ApoB-depression relationship.
Cognitive deficits are also considered significant clinical symptoms of depression. These deficits can affect several cognitive domains, including:
- Processing speed
- Executive functioning
- Selective cognitive control
Although evidence showing these cognitive deficits in individuals with depression may be pervasive and long-lasting, the cause of them is still uncertain. However, research reveals a significant association between higher ApoB levels and impaired cognitive functions in both human and animal studies. Since cognitive deficits are so prevalent in depression and linked to higher ApoB levels, establishing them as therapeutic targets may be beneficial when discussing effective treatment options.
How Understanding This Link Can Inform Future Mental Health Treatment
Since some evidence suggests LDL levels may impact depression, targeting cholesterol pathways could be a viable component of depression treatment. Cholesterol-reducing statins have already been applied in some trials and have shown promise. It’s unlikely this treatment will be enough to reduce symptoms of depression on its own, but it could be paired with other therapies.
In general, biomarkers are useful in determining the course of a medical condition, including the most effective type of treatment. Since biomarkers haven’t traditionally been used for mental health conditions, having research that shows a direct link between a biological condition and a mental disorder, such as ApoB and depression, could lead to more comprehensive treatment options covering all aspects of that disorder.
Future Considerations for Mental Health Treatment
It’s worth noting that while this research seems promising, there’s still much to be learned. For instance, it isn’t clear whether high ApoB-100 levels cause depression or are a consequence of having the disorder. It’s also unknown if just lowering ApoB levels will be enough to reduce symptoms of depression or what additional treatments should be paired with ApoB-reducing supplements for the most favorable outcome. More research and trials will need to be conducted before any solid conclusions can be drawn.
In the meantime, various treatment options are currently available to reduce depressive symptoms, with a combination of medication and psychotherapy being the most common. Doctors often prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), since they’re considered the safest antidepressant and generally have the fewest side effects. That said, antidepressants affect everyone differently, and you may need to try several medications before finding one that works best for you.
At FHE, we know how challenging it can be to cope with depression on your own, which is why we offer numerous mental health treatment options. You’ll have access to trained counselors and therapists to lead you through therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, helping you learn healthier coping skills to get your life back on track. Contact us today to speak with a representative and learn more about our services.