Using Blood Tests to Diagnose Depression and Bipolar Disorder

As written by: Sai Srihaas Potu The Latest Med News, April 16, 2021

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Major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are among the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in the USA. Both are associated with a high societal and economic burden.

Depression is the most prevalent psychiatric disorder worldwide and is the most common mental illness appearing in primary care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide. As for global morbidity, measured in disability-adjusted life years, depressive episodes increased by 37% between 1990 and 2010. It has been projected that by 2030, it will be the leading cause of disability in developed countries.

Diagnosis is complicated, since it is often based on criteria as opposed to very specific symptoms, which may be difficult to recognize by poorly trained professionals. Furthermore, oftentimes, patients do not seek out health assistance due to social stigma. It is commonly believed that the probability of experiencing a depressive episode increases with certain genetic, cognitive, medical, environmental, and social factors.

While current diagnosis and treatment approaches are largely trial and error, a breakthrough study by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers sheds new light on the biological basis of mood disorders. It offers a promising blood test aimed at a precision medicine approach to treatment.

This new blood test can distinguish the severity of a person’s depression and their risk for developing severe depression at a later point. The test can also determine if a person is at risk for developing bipolar disorder. Researchers say the blood test can also assist in tailoring individual options for therapeutic interventions.

Led by Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine, the study builds on previous research conducted by Niculescu and his colleagues into blood biomarkers that track suicidality as well as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers believe that blood biomarkers are emerging as important tools in disorders where subjective self-report by an individual, or a clinical impression of a health care professional, is not always reliable. These blood tests can open the door to precise, personalized matching with medications, and objective monitoring of response to treatment.

Blood biomarkers offer real-world clinical practice advantages. The brain cannot be easily biopsied in live individuals, so researchers worked hard over the years to identify blood biomarkers for neuropsychiatric disorders. Given the fact that 1 in 4 people will have a clinical mood disorder episode in their lifetime, the need for and importance of efforts cannot be overstated. It is important that researchers continue to analyze and understand the biomarkers behind depressive episodes as they could be very prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.


1. H. Le-Niculescu, K. Roseberry, S.S. Gill, et al. Precision medicine for mood disorders: objective assessment, risk prediction, pharmacogenomics, and repurposed drugs. Molecular Psychiatry. 2021.

Adrenal, Hormone & Cortisol Testing

The adrenal glands are the managers of the stress response in our body and control hormones such as Cortisol and DHEA. If these levels are imbalanced, we may experience symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, insomnia, obesity, diabetes, and anxiety and have a more difficult time handling stressful situations.

Adrenal fatigue and related health concerns are all too common in our society and little is being done by the medical community to address and treat it before it gets too late. If you suffer from long term stress, your adrenal glands cannot produce the extra cortisol needed to feel good. That’s when adrenal fatigue sets in. Some of the treatments for better adrenal function is a diet low in sugar, caffeine, and “junk food”. It is best to also supplement that diet with probiotics, vitamins and minerals that include Vitamin B5, B6, and B12, Vitamin C, and Magnesium. It also helps to keep your body more alkaline than acidic.

Adrenal insufficiency can also be diagnosed with a blood test that checks the levels of your cortisol. If too low, hormone replacement may be necessary.

Adrenal disorders are just now coming to the forefront. Many skilled professional have not had the opportunity to learn about it or its importance to your health. Doctors can make a big difference by monitoring their patients for signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue or insufficiency.

Can a Cup of Coffee Prevent Type 2?

You probably know that coffee seems to help wake you up in the morning—and afternoon, and sometimes in the evening, too. But did you know it might help prevent diabetes?

Studies examining the links between diet and diabetes risk have shown that coffee drinkers have a slightly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease—and type 2 diabetes. Of all the foods we consume, “coffee has the most potential to prevent type 2 diabetes,” says Marilyn Cornelis, PhD, a nutritionist and assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “With diabetes, the more coffee the better, according to epidemiological studies.”

Coffee is an important source of caffeine, but it’s also got other chemicals that might be protective. The complex aromas that coffee buffs savor come from hundreds of different chemical compounds released in the roasting process, for example, and coffee is known to contain high levels of antioxidants. When those chemicals are ingested, they interact with the body in ways we don’t yet understand — therefore the mystery behind coffee’s protective effects. In technical terms, those smaller elements are known as “metabolites,” after “metabolism,” the process of breaking down nutrients into components we can use.

It’s time to rethink coffee’s reputation as a bad habit. This year, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged coffee’s benefits for the first time and suggested five cups as a healthy upper limit, more than in the past. So why not encourage everyone in America to drink coffee? “In general, people are already consuming the amount they appear to tolerate,” Cornelis says. “If someone’s had too much coffee, they can tell.”

Thanks to their genes, some people are simply better at metabolizing caffeine. For example, some people can down an espresso after dinner and sleep soundly all night, while others get the jitters all day from a single cup with breakfast. Someone who metabolizes caffeine faster is going to get less of a jolt per cup and be more likely to drink more coffee each day—and therefore might get more of the chemicals that reduce diabetes risk.

Most of the studies in people and animals have used black coffee, rather than sugary, milky concoctions. The extra calories in a Frappucino, in other words, probably offset any benefits the coffee inside may convey. “With this in mind, black coffee would be the preferred choice,” says Cornelis.