FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- It is estimated that 15.7 million American adults experienced depression in 2014. And one of the main reasons so many people continue to experience this condition is that a large percentage of physicians are unaware of the documented link between homocysteine and depression, as reported in the August 2016 issue of Life Extension Magazine®.
Antidepressant use is on the rise, with about one in 10 Americans 12 years and older using them. Yet antidepressants only work as little as 50% of the time and people often experience an array of side effects. Now, a simple blood test that measures homocysteine levels, along with a metabolically active form of folate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), may offer hope to the millions of depression sufferers.
Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid. It is produced in the body by the breakdown of methionine, a common amino acid present in a variety of foods such as cereals, legumes, seafood, meat, and dairy products. When elevated, homocysteine can damage the inner linings of the body's blood vessels, leading to a range of cardiovascular conditions, including stroke. Also, a clinically relevant correlation has been established between high homocysteine levels and depression. The conversion of methionine into homocysteine is a process that involves the addition of a methyl group, a reaction that is known as methylation and requires key B vitamins.
The best way to control dangerous levels of homocysteine is through adequate intake of folate and vitamin B12. When either of these vitamins are deficient, homocysteine levels rise. Healthy levels of folate and vitamin B12 have been shown to keep homocysteine in check.
When the connection between high homocysteine levels and the occurrence of depression symptoms was discovered, researchers began to investigate whether the active form of folate, 5-MTHF, could have a beneficial impact on depression.
The results of these studies opened a new avenue for the treatment of depression. Scientists discovered that taking 5-MTHF in addition to antidepressant drugs dramatically improved response rates and did so in a significantly shorter amount of time.
In one study, only about 7% of subjects taking an antidepressant drug experienced major improvement on a standard depression score. That number jumped to almost 19% in those patients taking 5-MTHF in addition to an antidepressant drug.
The results were even more impressive in those with the most severe depression. Improvements of 40% were experienced while taking 5-MTHF in addition to the antidepressant drug, versus just about 16% of those taking the drug by itself.
Furthermore, 5-MTHF brought about these improvements significantly faster than antidepressant drugs alone. Specifically, the 5-MTHF group saw improvements in just 177 days, compared to 231 days in the control group. For those with the most severe depression, the results were even more dramatic. The median time to improvement was only 85 days, as compared to 150 days in the control group. A key finding was that nearly twice as many people in the antidepressant-only group stopped therapy due to adverse events (34%) as compared to the 5-MTHF with antidepressant group (17.9%), providing evidence for the potential safety benefits for the combination.
These are very encouraging results, especially considering the fact that depression is often difficult to treat, with only 30% of patients treated with a single antidepressant achieving resolution of their symptoms, a figure that rises to just 50% to 55% when a second drug is added.
This correlation makes supplementing with the metabolically active form of folate, 5-MTHF, an excellent adjunct supplementation for anyone suffering from depression.
Homocysteine levels should be part of a yearly battery of blood tests to ensure a healthy and long life. Individuals with elevated homocysteine levels should begin supplementation with 5-MTHF and retest levels after three months. For more homocysteine information, visit www.lifeextension.com.
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SOURCE Life Extension