Carnosine and Depression

In a mini-review from 2014, Prof. Alan Hipkiss reports that depression has been associated with the increased cortisol levels, shortened telomeres and susceptibility to age-related dysfunction. The author proposes that carnosine can be beneficial in the treatment of depression due to its potential to act an anti-ageing agent, maintain telomeres length, promote cortisol metabolism and exert anti-stress properties in mice. Prof. Hipkiss concluded: ’’Carnosine’s ability to affect behaviour positively in humans when present as a dietary supplement supports the idea that carnosine should be explored for its therapeutic potential towards control of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.’’(1)

Relying on his insights and the findings that carnosine modulates glutamate system (1,2), in 2020 a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial on carnosine adjuvant application in the treatment of the major depressive disorder was published in the Journal of  Affective Disorders (3). The study randomized the participants into a group receiving 400mg carnosine twice a day + citalopram or placebo + citalopram. The effects were analysed using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS)  which is the most widely used scale for the assessment of the severity of depression symptoms (depressed mood, feeling of guilt, suicide, anxiety somatic, insomnia, somatic gastrointestinal symptoms, retardation, anxiety psychic, genital symptoms, hypochondriasis, loss of weight, agitation, insight). The results are:

  • Statistically significant improvement in the carnosine group: greater treatment response and remission rate
  • HDRS scores significantly improved in the carnosine group at each of the cutoffs – 2,4,6 weeks
  1. Hipkiss, A.R., 2015. Possible benefit of dietary carnosine towards depressive disorders. Aging and disease6(5), p.300.
  2. Ouyang, L., Tian, Y., Bao, Y., Xu, H., Cheng, J., Wang, B., Shen, Y., Chen, Z. and Lyu, J., 2016. Carnosine decreased neuronal cell death through targeting glutamate system and astrocyte mitochondrial bioenergetics in cultured neuron/astrocyte exposed to OGD/recovery. Brain research bulletin124, pp.76-84.
  3. Araminia, B., Shalbafan, M., Mortezaei, A., Shirazi, E., Ghaffari, S., Sahebolzamani, E., Mortazavi, S.H., Shariati, B., Ardebili, M.E., Aqamolaei, A. and Naderi, S., 2020. L-Carnosine combination therapy for major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders267, pp.131-136