When people hear the word “folate,” they usually think of women and pregnancy. Folate supplementation during pregnancy has been highly recommended for years. But folate is a very important vitamin for everyone, not just pregnant women. Folate is considered a brain food. It is needed for energy production. And it is needed for the formation of red blood cells and strengthens the immune system by aiding in the formation and functioning of white blood cells.
Now, a new study published in the “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,” says that folate also plays a role in preventing depression. Researchers have known for some time that many depressed patients have also been found to have low folate levels. And it
seems the link works the other way around, too: folate supplementation has been shown to help in treating depression.
The research team set out to prove the link in a clinical study. The team reviewed 11 past studies on the association between folate levels and depression. A total of 15,315 participants were reviewed, 1,769 of whom had depression. The researchers discovered that individuals with low folate levels had as much as a 55% increased risk for depression.
Apparently, this increased depression risk remained even when the researchers took in to account factors that could affect the results, such as the reduced appetite and excessive alcohol drinking that has been associated with depression.
Not surprisingly, the researchers also discovered that not only did study participants with low folate levels have an increased risk of depression, but the opposite was also true. Depressed individuals had lower folate levels than the non-depressed participants.
If you want to add some foods containing folate to your diet, here is a list to help you out:
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Green leafy vegetables (especially spinach)
- Great northern beans
- Baked beans
- Long-grain rice
- Green peas
Be aware that you can develop a folate deficiency if you don’t eat fresh fruits and vegetables. When you cook or microwave your vegetables, you destroy the folate content.
Besides causing you to feel depressed, or upping your risk for getting heart disease, folate deficiency can cause a number of other symptoms, including anemia, fatigue, graying hair, insomnia, labored breathing, memory problems, paranoia, and digestive difficulties.
So keep your folate levels up! The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for folate is 400 micrograms (mcg) a day. You can take up to 600 mcg safely. Folate is one of those rare vitamins that are actually better absorbed when taken in supplement form as opposed to food sources. One final note: folate works best when taken with vitamin C and B12.