Research Investigates Whether Vitamin Folate Helps To Treat Depression

New research commissioned by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme is looking into whether the vitamin folate can help in the treatment of depression. One in five people experience depression during their lives and only half of these people respond to antidepressant treatment.

Folate, a vitamin found in foods such as green vegetables, helps to produce chemicals that regulate brain functions, including mood, sleep and appetite. A Cochrane review concluded that folate may have a role as a supplement to other treatments for depression, but the evidence is limited and primary research is needed to test this.

“Antidepressants work by improving the way certain chemical messengers work in the brain and folate helps produce the chemicals needed for this process,” says Professor Ian Russell of the University of Wales Bangor.

“Low levels of folate from a poor diet or similar factors could worsen depression and stop antidepressants from working optimally.”

Researchers in Wales led by Professor Russell are set to conduct the biggest randomised controlled trial of its kind to test whether a folate tablet taken daily by people with depression will help their antidepressants to work better. In addition to their antidepressants, participants will be given either a folate tablet or a dummy tablet for three months. Researchers will ask them about the effect this has on their depression, and take blood samples to corroborate this.

“We welcome this research initiative into the potential of folate to enhance the effect of anti-depressant medication,” says Lindsay Foyster, Director of Mind Cymru. “If the research proves folate to be efficacious then an easily acquired simple supplement or an informed improvement in diet could make a significant contribution to the self management of depression.”

For more information visit: http://www.hta.ac.uk/project.asp?PjtId=1537

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Notes:

1. The HTA programme produces high quality research information about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. This is a programme of the National Institute for Health Research (http://www.nihr.ac.uk) and is the largest and longest running of the national programmes with 340 projects published since its inception in 1993. About 50 are published each year, all available for download free of charge from the website. It is coordinated by the National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment (NCCHTA), based at the University of Southampton.

Visit http://www.hta.ac.uk for more information.

2. Mind (National Association for Mental Health) is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales and works to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.

Visit http://www.mind.org.uk for more information.

For further information please go to:
National Institute for Health Research And
University of Southampton

Medical News Today
Feb 3 2007