New findings suggests that some people with depression might have
problems metabolizing the B vitamin folate, also known as folic
Investigators in Norway found that depression occurred more
commonly in people who had high levels of the amino acid
homocysteine in their blood, and in those who carried a form of a
gene that encodes a protein involved in processing folate.
The findings were based on blood samples from 5,948 people
between the ages of 46 and 49, and screening them for depression
and anxiety. The researchers found that people who had
relatively high levels of homocysteine in their blood were almost
twice as likely to be depressed, relative to people with the
lowest blood levels of homocysteine.
Depression was also linked to a form of the gene for a
folate-processing enzyme associated with poorer efficiency in the
breakdown of folate.
Homocysteine is a normal byproduct of metabolism. However, many
people accummulate so much homocyteine that it becomes toxic.
Folate is one of the B vitamins that helps your body to detoxify
homocysteine. A folate insufficiency in the cells is a partial
cause of excessive homocysteine.
So if you’re depressed, it may be partly due to an insufficient
intake of folate, or you are not metabolizing it correctly. In
either case, you probably need more folate. Simply increasing
your dietary intake of uncooked or undercooked vegetables
(especially green vegetables) will help. In addition, you should
take a high-potency, high-quality B-complex vitamin.
However, if you have a genetic flaw that impairs folate
metabolism, you may need a much higher level of folic acid than
is available in a B-complex formula.
Medications that increase homocysteine levels (such as
Glucophage) may also deplete folate levels and thus contribute to
If you have a problem with depression, consult with one of our
physicians about the amount of folic acid other B vitamins you
need to take. Previous research has suggested that folic acid
supplements may boost the effects of antidepressants. Therefore,
we may be able to help you reduce the dosage of your
The Connecticut Center for Health offers homocysteine testing so
that you can determine whether high homocysteine is a cause of
your health problem. We can also deteermine whether you may have
a folate insufficiency from your CBC (complete blood count), or
by ordering a “hypersegmented neutrophil” test.
There’s no reason for you to be depressed simply because of a
vitamin deficiency or unintended consequences of other
medications. Call today!
Source: Archives of General Psychiatry 2003;60:618-626.