US Pharm. 2024;49(3):1.

New research by scientists from King’s College London reveals that interventions to improve mood can reduce levels of inflammation in patients with inflammatory bowel disease by 18% compared with no mood intervention.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London found that interventions designed to improve mood, including psychological therapy, antidepressants, and exercise, were associated with significant reductions in inflammatory biomarker levels in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), comprising Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The research indicates that interventions for mood could present an alternative treatment for IBD that is both effective and low cost.

Inflammatory biomarkers indicate areas and types of inflammation. Researchers analyzed existing studies on levels of the biomarkers C-reactive protein and fecal calprotectin, which are specific indicators of IBD, as well as a combined measure of other inflammatory biomarkers.

The findings from the systematic review and meta-analysis, published in eBiomedicine, part of The Lancet Discovery Science, suggest that interventions for mood present a strategy to improve mental health and reduce inflammation in IBD.

The scientists searched more than 15,000 articles, looking for all randomized, controlled trials in adults with IBD that measured levels of inflammatory biomarkers and tested a mood intervention (for example, measures to reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and distress, or improve emotional wellbeing). They reviewed and analyzed data from 28 trials involving over 1,700 participants.

The researchers found that psychological therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction, produced the best outcomes on inflammation in IBD compared with antidepressants and exercise interventions. Interventions that had a larger positive effect on mood, they discovered, had a greater effect on reducing inflammatory biomarkers. These findings suggest that the mechanism underlying the effect of psychological and social interventions on inflammation in IBD could be improved mood.

Individual analyses on IBD-specific inflammatory markers revealed a small reduction in C-reactive protein and fecal calprotectin following mood intervention. This suggests that treatments that improve mood have beneficial effects on generic inflammation as well as disease-specific biomarkers.

The researchers pointed out that many IBD medications have negative side effects and are often very costly, suggesting that interventions that aim to improve mood could reduce inflammation in IBD and potentially provide an alternative treatment or one that works alongside medications.

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