A Vitamin for Depression? by Berkeley Wellness – People struggling with depression frequently look for nondrug treatments. Who wouldnt prefer to take a vitamin pill, for example, over an antidepressant drug that frequently causes adverse effects? Thats why the idea of treating depression with the B vitamin folic acid is enticing. For many years researchers have noted an association between low blood levels of folic acid and depression. And its biochemically plausible that a folic acid deficiency could increase the potential risk of depression. Folate affects levels of serotonin along with other neurotransmitters which are linked to depression.
Furthermore, its possible that low blood levels of folic acid can be the result, as opposed to the cause, of depression. For example, depressed people can have a poorer diet. Depressed people can also drink alcohol in excess, and alcohol interferes with folic acid absorption and increases its excretion. Some studies testing the effects of supplemental folate have found modest advantages in depressed people, especially those who’re folic acid deficientbut some haven’t found benefits. Other research shows that antidepressants have a tendency to be less effective in folic acid deficient people. A Cochrane Collaboration review found limited evidence for folic acid as an adjunct treatment for depression.
However the size of any potential benefit is uncertain and can be clinically insignificant, it concluded. There’s an expensive prescription medical food containing high-dose methanfolate L methylfolate thats marketed as a way to increase antidepressant therapy in folic acid deficient people. This form of folic acid is supposed to be more easily absorbed than folic acid, but more research is needed to see if this is true. Finding the right dosage – When taken by women that are pregnant, folic acid supplements assist in preventing birth defects. Some studies suggest that an adequate intake can also reduce the potential risk of certain cancers, but that high doses might actually increase the risk.
There might be a reduction in cancer risk only if you are deficient, and a danger only if you take high doses when you’ve precancerous growths or cancer. High doses might also mask a vitamin B12 deficiency in older people and therefore delay its diagnosis and treatment, and might worsen the neurological harm of a B12 deficiency, which could actually exacerbate depression. Should you take folate? In case you’ve chronic or recurrent depression, speak with your physician about having your folic acid level measured. Most important, if you are taking an antidepressant, do not think that folic acid can replace it. It definitely cannot hurt to eat more folic acid rich foods, like leafy greens, citrus fruits, and a lot of other produce.