Folate Supplementation and Depression

We have known for years that folate, a B vitamin is required for cell growth and brain function.   But more recently we have seen the role that folate plays in the production of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine – the mood chemicals.

We consume folate naturally by eating green leafy vegetable and other foods, then the body converts folate to L-methylfolate.  This is the active form that does all the hard work.

Folate and DepressionDepression results in low levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain and antidepressants work to increase these levels.  So it would make sense that increasing these chemical’s pre-construction materials would also be very helpful in treating depression.

This is where L-methylyfolate enters the picture.  Deplin is a oral form of L-methylyfolate that is available by prescription, but is not considered a prescription medication.  Instead it is considered a medical food.

What is medical food?

In 1988, Orphan Drug Amendments was established to define medical food as a food to be consumed under the supervision of a physician for dietary management of a disease or condition.  This is in contrast to dietary supplements, which are intended for those without a specific disease or medical condition.  Prescription drugs on the other hand, are designed to treat or prevent a disease.

Since L-methylyfolate is like a dietary supplement, there are not many side effects or downsides to taking it.  Perhaps the biggest negative would be cost.  If your insurance will not pay for it, it can cost around $100 for a thirty-day supply.   The makers of Deplin recently provided a generic form that is cheaper and your insurance may cover this one.

In any case, if you have not been introduced to Deplin and you struggle with low mood or you notice that your antidepressant sometimes stops working as well,  talk with your doctor about taking L-methylfolate.

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