Combat depression and protect against Alzheimer’s

Folate and vitamins B6 and B12, and omega-3s may curb depression, folate reduced falls and vitamin D improved balance, and folate and folic acid protected against Alzheimer’s disease, several new studies reveal.

Doctors in a depression study measured folate and vitamin B12 levels in 669 adults, aged at least 55. Although everyone had normal folate levels, those with more folate were much less likely to be depressed than those with less folate. Also, those with normal vitamin B12 levels were less likely to have depressive symptoms than those deficient in vitamin B12.

In a discussion of mood and vitamin deficiency, doctors explained that folate, folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 help form serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood. When these nutrients are deficient, homocysteine, a sign of inflammation, increases, and researchers noted that about half of those with depression have high homocysteine levels. The scientists also said that omega-3 fatty acids help protect nerve coverings and believe that it is important to correct deficiencies in these nutrients to maintain nervous system health.

In a study of balance and falls, researchers measured serum folate levels in 54 men and women, aged 65 to 91, and found that as levels of folate increased, the number of falls in the past year decreased. Doctors also found that those with higher vitamin D levels had better balance, stood up and walked faster, and had more strength and range of motion than those with lower vitamin D levels.

In an Alzheimer’s disease (AD) study, researchers measured folate levels in about 1,000 men and women, average age 76, and followed up for seven years. Those who got folate from diet and folic acid supplements together were least likely to have AD, and as their total folate levels increased, chances for AD decreased.

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