Depression currently affects between 5-10 percent of individuals and is the third most common reason for health consultation. Worldwide, the disorder will soon become the second leading cause of disability.
Tantalizing new research finds a link between depression and low levels of folate, a vitamin which comes from vegetables.
Researchers from the University of York and Hull York Medical School discovered the association between depression and low folate levels, following a review of 11 previous studies involving 15,315 participants.
Lead researcher Dr. Simon Gilbody comments:
“Our study is unique in that for the first time all the relevant evidence in this controversial area has been brought together. Although the research does not prove that low folate causes depression, we can now be sure that the two are linked. Interestingly, there is also some trial evidence that suggests folic acid supplements can benefit people with depression. We recommend that large trials should be carried out to further test this suggestion.”
Last month, the Food Standards Agency recommended to UK Health Ministers the introduction of mandatory fortification of either bread or flour with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, which can result in miscarriage, neonatal death or lifelong disability.
The York study suggests that the measure may also help in the fight against depression.
Recent research from the same team published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has also proved that people with depression commonly have a gene that means that they process folate less efficiently.
Folate is linked to the production of some of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. The identification of this gene provides a plausible explanation as to why folic acid supplements may help people with depression.
Source: York University