Confirm Folates Role in Preventing Depression
Two new studies provide further evidence
that low folate levels may have a role to play in depression. In
one study, high folate levels were linked to a greater success
rate in treating depressed geriatric patients. In the other
study, patients with depression had a more difficult time
Researchers undertook the one study because previous findings
suggested that lower folate levels are associated with reduced
responsiveness to treatment with selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitors (SSRI). In addition, depressed geriatric patients
have lower levels of folate than controls, and folate
supplements have been found to reduce death related to
In the current small, randomized, observational study,
researchers with New York University Medical Center gave 12
geriatric patients the SSRI sertraline, while 10 patients
received the SSRI nortriptyline for 12 weeks. The researchers
measured folate levels at the beginning of the study and after
treatment. At the beginning of the study, all patients had
folate levels within the normal range. However, patients who had
higher folate levels at the beginning of the study achieved
greater improvement after treatment.
The reason why folate may help reduce depression is because
deficiency of this important B vitamin causes brain levels of
mood-boosting serotonin to fall. In addition, low levels of
folate triggers a reduction of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, which
may contribute to depression in individuals with a
predisposition to depression. Folate also plays a role in the
metabolism of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), an action which also
contributes to proper levels of brain serotonin. The researchers
called for additional research to evaluate the role of folate
supplements in patients with folate levels in the low normal
In the other study, researchers studied folate levels and levels
of the amino acid homocysteine in 5,948 subjects aged 46 to 49
years and 70 to 74 years. The study authors found that subjects
who had relatively high levels of homocysteine in their blood
were almost twice as likely to be depressed, compared to people
with the lowest homocysteine blood levels. Depressed subjects
also were more likely to have impaired folate metabolism.
Homocysteine is an amino acid implicated in heart disease.
Folate is known to lower levels of homocysteine. The study
authors concluded that folic acid supplements may help prevent
In the middle-aged subjects, low levels of folate also were
linked to depression. But even though markers of folate
metabolism were altered in depression, actual levels of folate
in the blood did not differ between the elderly subjects with
and without depression. Researchers suggested that this may be
because measuring folate in the blood may not be an accurate
indication of how much folate actually resides in cells.
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
Alpert M. Prediction of Treatment Response in Geriatric
Depression From Baseline Folate Level: Interaction With an SSRI
or a Tricyclic Antidepressant. J Clin Psychopharmacol.
Bjelland I, Tell GS, Vollset SE, Refsum H, Ueland PM. Folate,
vitamin B12, homocysteine, and the MTHFR 677C->T polymorphism in
anxiety and depression: the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. Arch
Gen Psychiatry. 2003 Jun;60(6):618-26.
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