Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RNDepression afflicts about 10% of Americans1 and it is estimated that one fourth of the US population will experience depression at some point during their lives3.
Many people find no relief whatsoever. In fact, about 30% don’t respond to conventional treatments, leaving many feeling pretty hopeless2.
If you’re one of these people, please pay close attention. Below, we’ll explain how L-methylfolate, a special type of folic acid, could help treatment-resistant cases of depression.
Hopefully, you’ll be as encouraged by this as we are.
When SSRI Drugs Don’t WorkSSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are the first line of treatment for depression, but they don’t work in up to 60% of people who take them.3
In an effort to help such patients, many traditional doctors will simply increase the dose or switch them to another class of drugs. However, based on new research, better options may be on the table sometime in the near future. Thank goodness.
L-methylfolate + SSRIs Decrease Symptoms of DepressionIn a recent study, scientists gave L-methylfolate (or a placebo) in addition to a standard SSRI drug. Two randomized clinical trials were conducted with a total of 223 patients.
The participants were non-responders or partial responders to the SSRIs, meaning they didn’t respond well to the SSRI treatment.
The first trial was split into three groups:
- The first group received 7.5 mg/day of L-methylfolate for 30 days and 15 mg for 30 days afterwards.
- The second group received a placebo for 30 days followed by 7.5 mg for the remaining 30 days.
- The third group received a placebo for 60 days.
The second trial was identical to the first, except that the L-methylfolate dosage was increased to 15 mg – two times the dose used in the first trial.
Fortunately, the results of the second trial were encouraging. Not only was the L-methylfolate well-tolerated, it was also effective in reducing symptoms.4
Twice as many people taking the 15 mg of L-methylfolate felt a response in 30 days compared to placebo, and they experienced an 84% greater reduction in depressive symptoms. Not bad at all, wouldn’t you say?
Folic Acid Supports Neurotransmitter ProductionSo why did these patients improve while taking 15 mg of L-methylfolate?
Well, it’s not 100% clear, but there could be a few different reasons. For one, they might have been deficient to begin with.
Research shows that people with folic acid deficiencies are more likely to be depressed.5 They also don’t respond as well to anti-depressant drugs.3 In contrast, higher intakes of folic acid are associated with a lower risk of depression.3
Next, folic acid plays a very important role in neurotransmitter production. It produces SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) and BH4 (tetrahydrobiopterin), which are used to generate serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.3
These compounds are really important for a healthy mood.
Yes, The Form of Folic Acid Really MattersBefore you start taking folic acid to support your mood, make sure you take the right form. L-methylfolate is the most effective form and the one you should be seeking.
When you consume folic acid (synthetic) or folate (natural), it’s converted into L-methylfolate by an enzyme called MTHFR reductase.
This is the biologically active form and is the only form that will cross the blood-brain barrier for neurotransmitter production. It’s also highly absorbable, being seven times more absorbable than folic acid.6
Unfortunately, about 60 percent of the US population has a genetic mutation which compromises this conversion.3 This genetic mutation has actually been found to correlate with depression7 and other mental health disorders. Taking L-methylfolate may help to bypasses this problem.
The Bottom LineSo what does this information imply? Simply put, optimizing your folate intake is important, especially if you’re depressed and haven’t had success with traditional treatments.
Has a nutritional change ever made a big impact on your mood? Please tell us about it in the comments!
- Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/. Accessed April 22, 2013.
- Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2009 Jun;18(6):767-88.
- Altern Med Rev. 2008 Sep;13(3):216-26.
- Am J Psychiatry. 2012 Dec 1;169(12):1267-74.
- Nutr Rev. 1997 May;55(5):145-9.
- Br J Pharmacol. 2004 Mar;141(5):825-30.
- J Nutr Health Aging. 2010 Dec;14(10):829-33.
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