Midweek Mental Greening
First and foremost, I should offer a disclaimer for this post:
The scientific media briefing I watched this morning, “Feeding the Brain to Help Manage Depression: The Role of Medical Foods,” was presented by Rakesh Jain, M.D., M.P.H., the Director of Psychiatric Drug Research at R/D Clinical Research Center in Lake Jackson, TX and Teodoro Bottiglieri, Ph.D. of the Baylor Institute of Metabolic Disease, and sponsored by Pamlab, a pharmaceutical company specializing in prescription medical foods. Neither PsychCentral.com nor myself is affiliated with Pamlab or Deplin, the new medical food discussed during the briefing.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the more interesting stuff.
“Can we feed the brain to regulate mood disorders?”
If you had no experience with or knowledge of medical foods (meant for nutritional or dietary management of specific diseases), you might’ve thought Jain and Bottiglieri were referring to feeding the brain – and our bodies – with actual food when you heard that question.
Instead, the men were referring to medical foods – more specifically, a new product called Deplin, a medical food that includes L-methylfolate, the only active form of folate that can cross the blood brain barrier and help with the synthesis of the neurotransmitters associated with mood and, consequently, mood disorders such as depression: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Research shows that people with depression and low folate levels are less likely to respond to treatments such as antidepressants and less likely to achieve remission.
(Unfortunately, a smorgasbord of factors can contribute to low folate levels – genetics, age, lifestyle choices like poor diets and smoking, certain medications like anticonvulsants, oral contraceptives, and lithium, and certain illnesses like Crohn’s disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes, just to name a few.)
Well, that makes sense, right? I mean, if you need folate to help synthesize the neurotransmitters, and you don’t have enough folate, the neurotransmitters won’t be properly synthesized and your depression – even with the assistance of antidepressants – probably won’t get better. Or, at least, the chances of you getting better – and staying better for longer periods of time – will be decreased.
What didn’t make sense to me during most of the briefing was why folic acid and natural forms of folate (the kind you can get from green vegetables, for example) wouldn’t work just as well?
In other words, why do we need yet another pill?
How can you blame me? This column is called “Midweek Mental Greening,” after all.