Cure For Depression May Come From The Stone Ages
Statistics show that one in four Americans will become clinically depressed by
age 75. Americans are 10 times more likely to have depressive illness than they
were 60 years ago. Depression treatment often centers on talk therapy and
antidepressant drugs. While the drugs have been lifesavers for many people,
antidepressants aren't working as well as advertised, according to psychologist
Steve Ilardi, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas,
and their side effects can go from bad to devastating, including suicide. In
the last two decades, the use of antidepressant drugs has increased 800
percent, yet depressive illness continues to climb.
To confront the country's growing depression epidemic, Ilardi peered backward
into human history, thousands of years and beyond. His research led to the the
hunter-gatherer way of life, a time when humans lived in roving, close-knit
bands. What he learned led Ilardi and his research team to propose a program to
reclaim the disappearing lifestyle elements. They call it Therapeutic Lifestyle
Change, intended to help modern humans deal with depressive illness. The team
identified factors that are antidepressant but are compromised by contemporary
Omega-3 Fatty Acids... The brain needs essential fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-3, for healthy function. The typical American diet provides
a 16-to-1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. The healthiest ratio is 1-to-1.
Omega-3 intake has dropped precipitously in the last 100 years, due in part to
farm-raised meat and fish, Ilardi said. Studies have associated omega-3
deficiency with an increased vulnerability to depression. Learn More...
Exercise... While people in hunter-gatherer societies spend hours a day in physical
activity, walking as much as 10 miles a day, a majority of American adults get
no regular physical exercise. Clinical trials have identified exercise as an
effective treatment for depression. One study found just 90 minutes of aerobic
exercise a week to be effective.
Sleep... Americans on average get 6.8 hours of sleep a night. Just 100 years ago, they
slept nine hours. Hunter-gatherers spend more than 10 hours in darkness, and
some members of modern-day hunter-gatherer societies complain about getting too
much sleep. Lack of sleep is a well-established health risk on many fronts,
including an increased risk of depression.
Social Connectedness... Hunter-gatherer societies live in groups of 50 to 100, chiefly with close
relatives and friends. American adults for several generations have grown
socially isolated from other family members and from friends. Social support is
a known safeguard against the risk of depression. "We're designed to be
interdependent," Ilardi said. "We're designed to have lots of face time with
those closest to us."
Anti-Ruminative Behavior... Rumination is the tendency to dwell on negative thoughts. Episodes of rumination
occur most often when alone. Clients often don't realize the amount of time
they spend engaged in such thoughts or the amount of distress it causes, Ilardi
said. Hunter-gatherers spend almost no time alone. With nearly constant social
activity, they have little opportunity for rumination. Americans spend much
more time alone, including sitting in traffic and staring at unengaging TV
Rapid cultural change is relatively recent, starting with farming, then
city-building, then the technological explosion. So Ilardi asked: Are there
built-in features of that ancient way of life that are antidepressant and that
we need to reclaim? Hunter-gatherers walked for miles. They got lots of light
exposure. They slept when the sun was down. And they ate differently. Many
obesity experts think our appetite and our desire for certain tastes trace back
to a time when food was an uncertain commodity.
According to a small study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine,
researchers from Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus found a
correlation between a higher omega-6-to-omega-3 blood ratio and the occurrence
of depression, as well as the occurrence of inflammation-promoting compounds in
The researchers looked at fatty acid intake, inflammation and depression levels
in 43 senior citizens. Six of the participants were found to meet the criteria
for major depression. These six participants had a significantly higher ratio
of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than the participants who were not depressed,
an average of 18:1 compared with 13:1. Among those who were depressed, a higher
omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio was found to correlate with the level of depressive
symptoms. The study authors said that the average hunter-gatherer diet provides
a ratio of two or three to one, compared with the modern Western ratio of
Participants who were depressed also had higher blood levels of tumor necrosis
factor alpha, interleukin-6 and other compounds known to cause inflammation.
These compounds have been linked to arthritis, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes
and other health problems. Researcher Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser calls them
"all-purpose 'nasties' for aging."
Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in foods such as flax seed oil, walnuts and
fish. Omega-6 fatty acids are the kind found in the refined vegetable oils most
commonly used for cooking. The spike in omega-6 intake in the West dates to the
early 20th century, when refined vegetable oil use first became common.
info from www.Seacoastonline.com (3/07) "Stone Age Solutions To Depression" by
Edward M.Eveld (McClatchy Newspapers) and NaturalNews.com (3/08) "Omega-6 Fatty
Acids Found To Be Dietary Cause Of Depression and Heart Disease." by David