Did You Know…that missing out on the benefits of folic acid an easily-corrected vitamin deficiency may be the cause of major depression and mood disorders?
Research conducted in the last several years at the University of York and Hull York Medical School shows a definite link between depression and low levels of folate — a compound found organically in fruits, leafy vegetables, and other food sources.
The team from York published some of their findings in the July 2007 edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, stating that a review of 11 previous studies involving 15,315 participants showed a strong connection between low folate levels and depression.
Dr. Simon Gilbody (leader of the York team) spoke with a reporter from the University’s magazine about his work, saying, “Although the research does not prove that low folate causes depression, we can now be sure that the two are linked … there is also some trial evidence that suggests folic acid supplements can benefit people with depression.”
Dr. Gilbody and his team also published the results of further research on the link between folic acid and depression in the American Journal of Epidemiology.The team was able to prove that individuals with depression commonly have a gene that causes them to improperly process folate.
This gene helps explain why folic acid supplements can clear up even the most severe and prolonged forms of depression.
Importance of B Vitamins and the Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, which are well known to be crucial to emotional and mental well-being. Because B vitamins can’t be stored in our bodies, you need a diet that supplies sufficient amounts.
Unfortunately, even then, B vitamins are destroyed by commonly consumed substances, such as:
- Refined sugars
Therefore, it’s not surprising that B-vitamin deficiencies are so widespread.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, and it affects a group of chemicals in the brain known as monoamines.
It’s linked to the production of some of the “feel good” chemicals in the brain, and thought to play a role in the production neurotransmitters such as: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Researchers believe that folate can cross the blood/brain barrier and is therefore key to maintaining healthy levels of key monoamine neurotransmitters.
When Antidepressants Don’t Work
Folate deficiencies are especially frequent in patients who don’t respond to conventional antidepressants. Some studies also indicate that folic acid may be a very helpful add-on to other prescription antidepressants.
In one study, folic acid was compared with a placebo pill as a combination with a Prozac treatment approach.
Patients who received folic acid improved more those who received the placebo. This improvement was especially marked in woman. Nearly 95% of female patients who received folic acid responded to the combo treatment, compared to 60% of woman given the placebo.
Another study conducted with elderly depressed patients found that another type of folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF) was essentially just as effective as a mainstream antidepressant medication.
Where to Find Folic Acid
Benefits of folic acid are easily available in its natural form in a number of foods, including:
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
In addition, many grain products have been enhanced with folic acid, especially breads and cereals. So you can reap the benefits of folic acid, without even noticing it.
And in addition to watching your diet, taking a folic acid supplement is a fantastic way to ensure you are providing your body with an adequate supply.
Some drugs — notably various barbiturates, anticonvulsants, and birth control pills — can interact with folic acid, so if you are taking any of these, make sure to consult your prescriber before adding a folic acid supplement to your daily regime.
Standard daily doses of folic acid vary, but typically fall between 250 -1,000 mcg (micrograms) per day. The recommended amount, unless a medical professional has advised otherwise, is 400 mcg per day. At this dose, most adults experience no side effects whatsoever.
Folic acid supplements typically come in tablet form, and can be found in most natural food and drug stores.