Depression may stem from the inability of the body to metabolize folate, a B-complex vitamin, according to research from Norway.
B-vitamins help regulate the amino acid homocysteine which, when levels are too high, can damage cells lining the blood vessels and raise oxidative stress, a condition where the cells lose control of their regulatory systems. Homocysteine has also been linked to cognitive impairment, dementia, and stroke, and with the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Ingvar Bjelland, MD, of the University of Bergen, screened 5,948 people between the ages of 46 and 49 for depression and anxiety. His team then examined blood samples and found that those with depression were more likely to have high blood levels of homocysteine and to have difficulty breaking down folate. Those with the highest blood levels of homocysteine were almost twice as likely to have depression as those with the lowest levels. The researchers also found that folic acid, the supplement form of folate, appeared to boost the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Dr. Martha Morris, PhD, an epidemiologist at Tufts University concurred saying that her findings also showed that folic acid supplementation helped the depressed reduce fatigue and improve energy levels. Researchers do not know why those with depression have difficulty metabolizing folate. Dr. Bjelland concluded that B-vitamins in general, and folic acid in particular, are important not only for physical health, but for mental health as well.