UCSD team finds obesity’s link to depression


Researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine have found obesity to be a risk factor for depressive symptoms, but not for clinical depression. Because depressive symptoms are considered a precursor to major depression, the finding suggests that weight status could play a part in the development of depression in some adolescent girls.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0 percent to 18.1 percent in 2008. Similarly, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that 2 million youths aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2007. Results of the study appear in Health Psychology. More information at


New GERD surgery

Recently, a 62-year-old woman became the first patient in San Diego County to undergo a new “incisionless” procedure to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); a condition caused when the valve between the esophagus and the stomach is weak or absent, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus or, in severe cases, into the lungs.

Performed at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, the procedure called Esophyx is done by inserting a special scope equipped with built-in instruments through the mouth and down through the esophagus. The scope is then used to create a new, fully functioning valve from existing tissue. The new valve creates a natural barrier against stomach acid. Because no incision is needed, there is reduced pain, shorter recovery time, and no visible scar. Video news broadcast at


Slowing Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers with the UCSD Alzheimer’s program have begun a Phase III clinical trial testing a new approach to slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease using Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIg), also known as gamma globulin. IVIg has been used to treat primary immunodeficiency disorders for more than 20 years, but is not currently approved for treating Alzheimer’s, one of the leading forms of dementia.

Initial research in experimental models and patients suggest that IVIg, which contains naturally occurring human anti-amyloid antibodies, will defend the brain of Alzheimer’s patients against the damaging effects of beta amyloid. If it does, giving IVIg to patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s may slow the rate of progression of the disease. More information at


Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.