The science of Sad: understanding the causes of ‘winter depression’

The science of Sad

For many of us in the UK, the annual ritual of putting the clocks back for daylight saving time can be accompanied by a distinct feeling of winter blues as autumn well and truly beds in. This might be felt as a lack of energy, reduced enjoyment in activities and a need for more sleep than normal. But for around 6% of the UK population and between 2-8% of people in other higher latitude countries such as Canada, Denmark and Sweden, these symptoms are so severe that these people are unable to work or function normally. They suffer from a particular form of major depression, triggered by changes in the seasons, called seasonal affective disorder or Sad.

In addition to depressive episodes, Sad is characterised by various symptoms including chronic oversleeping and extreme carbohydrate cravings that lead to weight gain. As this is the opposite to major depressive disorder where patients suffer from disrupted sleep and loss of appetite, Sad has sometimes been mistakenly thought of as a “lighter” version of depression, but in reality it is simply a different version of the same illness. “People who truly have Sad are just as ill as people with major depressive disorder,” says Brenda McMahon, a psychiatry researcher at the University of Copenhagen. “They will have non-seasonal depressive episodes, but the seasonal trigger is the most common. However it’s important to remember that this condition is a spectrum and there are a lot more people who have what we call sub-syndromal Sad.”

Around 10-15% of the population has sub-syndromal Sad. These individuals struggle through autumn and winter and suffer from many of the same symptoms but they do not have clinical depression. And in the northern hemisphere, as many as one in three of us may suffer from “winter blues” where we feel flat or disinterested in things and regularly fatigued.

Putting the clocks back for daylight saving time can be accompanied by a distinct feeling of winter blues.

One theory for why this condition exists is related to evolution. Around 80% of Sad sufferers are women, particularly those in early adulthood. In older women, the prevalence of Sad goes down and some researchers believe that this pattern is linked to the behavioural cycles of our ancient ancestors. “Because it affects such a large proportion of the population in a mild to moderate form, a lot of people in the field do feel that Sad is a remnant from our past, relating to energy conservation,” says Robert Levitan, a professor at the University of Toronto. “Ten thousand years ago, during the ice age, this biological tendency to slow down during the wintertime was useful, especially for women of reproductive age because pregnancy is very energy-intensive. But now we have a 24-hour society, we’re expected to be active all the time and it’s a nuisance. However, as to why a small proportion of people experience it so severely that it’s completely disabling, we don’t know.”

There are a variety of biological systems thought to be involved, including some of the major neurotransmitter systems in the brain that are associated with motivation, energy and the organisation of our 24-hour circadian rhythms. “We know that dopamine and norepinephrine play critical roles in terms of how we wake up in the morning and how we energise the brain,” Levitan says. One particular hormone, melatonin, which controls our sleep and wake cycles, is thought to be “phase delayed” in people with severe Sad, meaning it is secreted at the wrong times of the day.

Another system of particular interest relates to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety, happiness and mood. Increasing evidence from various imaging and rodent studies suggests that the serotonin system may be directly modulated by light. Natural sunlight comes in a variety of wavelengths, and it is particularly rich in light at the blue end of the spectrum. When cells in the retina, at the back of our eye, are hit by this blue light, they transmit a signal to a little hub in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that integrates different sensory inputs, controls our circadian rhythms, and is connected to another hub called the raphe nuclei in the brain stem, which is the origin of all serotonin neurons throughout the brain. When there is less light in the wintertime, this network is not activated enough. In especially susceptible individuals, levels of serotonin in the brain are reduced to such an extent that it increases the likelihood of a depressive episode.

The most popular treatments for Sad is bright-light therapy.

Read More: http://snip.ly/25gi4#https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/30/sad-winter-depression-seasonal-affective-disorder

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Sneak Peak into World’s Largest Flying Restaurant [Infographic]

World's largest flying restaurant - first class in Emirates
First class cabin passenger in Emirates Airline enjoying her dinner. Photo-Emirates

How does a global airline like Emirates cater to the needs of its over 55 million customers? Here’s a neat infographic that gives you a glimpse into how Dubai’s flagship airline is able to meet and exceed its customer’s gastronomic requirements!

Emirates serves more than 100 million meals a year with the same attention to detail in First, Business and Economy Class. Catering for more than 55 million dine-in guests a year travelling to and from 144 cities across 6 continents, no one understands global culinary trends better than Emirates as it serves destination-inspired cuisine onboard the world’s largest flying restaurant.

With a catering investment of US$1 billion per year, Emirates runs a round-the-clock kitchen with 1,200 chefs based in Dubai whipping up 12,450 recipes. The finely-tuned operation caters 590 flights a day with authentic local cuisines giving customers a taste of the destination they are going to. The airline also works closely with 25 catering partners around the world to provide the same quality of food for its Dubai-bound flights.

Infographic: Emirate Airline – Catering to the World

Infographic- world's largest flying restaurant
Catering to the world. Infographic courtesy-Emirates

Global delicacies local flavour

Emirates’ focus on local flavour means it has food available from every region it flies to. Flights to Japan for example, offer authentic Kaiseki cuisine and Bento boxes served with Japanese crockery, cutlery and tea sets to ensure an unrivalled food experience on board.

The airline recently launched a new menu for its Australian routes inspired by the breadth of the country’s multicultural flavours and cuisines, after a 14-month process working in consultation with local chefs.

The new menu features a broad range of traditional local favourites such as minted lamb sausages. Reflecting Australia’s multiculturalism, the menu also includes Asian flavours, as well as Middle Eastern flavours and ingredients, catering to Emirates’ diverse passenger mix and representing its global route network.

To keep up with regional and seasonal food trends, Emirates changes its onboard menus monthly and continually reviews its recipes.

The varied menus on each route are also reflected in the bread baskets served on board. Flavoured breads or breads produced with a sourdough base are popular on European routes while parathas, pooris, and naan bread are served on all nine Emirates routes to India. On its Middle Eastern routes, customers get to enjoy Arabic bread – Markook – a very thin unleavened bread common in the region, and Manakesh which is either topped with Zaatar or Cheese.

In premium classes, meals are served on Royal Doulton tableware with Robert Welch cutlery specially designed for Emirates.

Global partners, best of local and artisanal produce

Emirates focuses on simple, well cooked dishes that emphasise fresh ingredients of the highest quality. The airline brings the finest products on board through long standing partnerships worldwide, and supporting local suppliers and artisans. This includes sourcing over 15,000 kilograms of Persian feta from the Yarra Valley in Australia each year. The olive oil served on board is exclusively from carbon neutral producer Monte Vibiano in Italy, a partnership that is now more than 15 years old.

 

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