Treating Mood Disorders at a High Altitude


(Photo by Preston Zubal)

(Photo by Preston Zubal)
(Photo by Preston Zubal)

The correlation between high altitudes and mood disorders was discussed Wednesday night at the U’s Neurophyschiatric Institute’s “Evening with Experts.”
Perry Renshaw, a psychiatry professor and the U’s medical director, presented his and his collaborator’s 20 years worth of research at the event.
Renshaw studied the relationships between high altitude and mood disorders and found Utah is 25 percent more depressed than other states.
Through the testing of rats and clinical trials in Utah and South Korea, Renshaw said he is working toward a possible treatment for mood disorders at high altitudes.
“Our overall idea is that people who have mood disorders have changes in their brain chemistry, and we want to know what those specific changes in the chemistry are,” Renshaw said. “[That way] we can develop [natural] supplements that might be effective treatments.”
Renshaw said there is 15 percent less oxygen in Utah’s air than in the air in some other states around the nation. The higher the altitude, the higher the oxygen deficiency. Thus, there are changes in the chemicals produced by one’s brain. Specific changes occur within compounds and molecules that work with oxygen and energy in the body’s brain and muscles.
An example, Renshaw said, is especially seen in depressed individuals lacking creatine monohydrate: an organic acid in the body which provides energy to muscles.
Although there are many other supplement treatments for depression, Renshaw said creatine taken as a supplement seems to be one with incredible results.
“Creatine in this society crushed anxiety,” Renshaw said. “[Depression] is the most disabling disorder in the United States and Canada. It would be a tragedy and crisis if the university didn’t do everything in its power to better understand and treat Utahns who have the disorders.”
Renshaw said people often do not receive the support they need when facing depression.
“A key thing in depression is that you tend to blame yourself, and frequently your family will blame you,” he said. “People don’t understand depression. Their families don’t understand depression. It’s tragedy not to have research going on.”
Renshaw said he fully believes depression can be rightly treated.
Kim Christensen, an attendee of the event, said she went to the event to hear what Dr. Renshaw had to say about his research.
“I think [Renshaw] is trying to help understand that studies are being done and to be aware of the situation in Utah,” Christensen said. “I don’t feel like he was selling anything, which is good.”
Renshaw is still doing research and said he hopes the research behind creatine will be promoted. However, Renshaw also said he believes there is still a lot of research to do in regards to altitude and nutritional supplements.
“Depression is a big problem,” Renshaw said. “It may require a different treatment if you live in the Rocky Mountain states. The only way we will get better answers is by doing more research.”
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