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Depressed? Please read this. January 4, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are lucky. Unless we’re in actual pain or something really bad happens, we’re happy, cheerful, upbeat people. We don’t see the glass as half-empty, or even completely empty; we see an opportunity to pour ourselves another glass. But some of our friends, and some of our friends’ kids, aren’t so fortunate. For them, depression is an ongoing struggle that defines their lives.

They are not alone. According to an article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “Nearly 20 million people in the U.S. suffer depression during their lifetime,” and “11% of Americans over age 12 take antidepressants.” Not to mention: “Only 30% get well on the first antidepressant alone.”

But statistics like these, which are enough to depress anyone, weren’t what attracted our friend Ben’s attention to the article. It was a promising discovery that could help everyone who battles depression, and the best news is, it’s one that’s easy (and cheap). The secret to fighting depression and to making antidepressants work better appears to be simply to up your folate levels.

Folate is one of the B vitamins, available in synthetic form as folic acid both as a single supplement and in B-vitamin supplements, as well as in multi-vitamins. It’s found in its natural form in spinach, kale, arugula, collards, and other leafy green vegetables, as well as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocadoes, artichokes, okra, and asparagus; in beans (including green beans and garbanzos), peas, peanuts, edamame, lentils, and other legumes; in nuts; in hot peppers; and in some fruits, including oranges and papaya.

Here’s why folate matters in regard to depression: “Recent research has found that the body converts folate (and folic acid, the synthetic version) into an active form called L-methylfolate, which is needed to produce serotonin, dopamine and norephenephrine, three neurotransmitters that are critical in regulating mood.”

These three mood regulators are essential to making us feel good, and when we don’t have enough of them, we feel bad/sad/depressed. The article goes on to say that about 50% of Americans have a genetically reduced ability to produce the mood enhancers, making them prone to depression. And that even people who aren’t depression-prone may become susceptible to depression as a result of reduced L-methylfolate levels due to aging, illness, poor nutrition, excess alcohol consumption, and some medications.

Most of the buzz reported by the article is caused by a prescription form of L-methylfolate called Deplin, which appears to boost the effectiveness of antidepressants and, if you’re one of the unfortunate ones whose antidepressant worked for a while, then stopped working, to restore the effectiveness of antidepressants. Studies are in the works to see if Deplin might be effective in combating depression on its own.

Meanwhile, if you take antidepressants, please read the full story and see what you think. (Go to www.wsj.com and look for “Giving Antidepressants a Boost with a Vitamin,” January 3, 2012). You might want to discuss Deplin with your doctor. If you have friends and loved ones who suffer from depression, please pass the article along to them. And for everybody, including those of us who aren’t afflicted by depression, take your B supplements and eat plenty of leafy greens, nuts, legumes, and other good sources of folate. It sounds like an easy way to get 2012 off to a healthy, upbeat start!

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