A low intake of folate and vitamin B12 is linked to a greater risk of melancholic depressive symptoms.

Folate is a water soluble vitamin that helps produce chemicals that control brain functions, such as sleep, mood, and appetite, and can be found in foods like green vegetables. Vitamin B12 is also a water soluble vitamin and it plays a crucial role in the function of the brain, nervous system, and formation of red blood cells.

The finding came from a study that analyzed nearly 3,000 middle-aged and elderly people from Finland. The research also showed that non-melancholic depressive symptoms are associated with an elevated risk the metabolic syndrome.

These observations suggest that melancholic and non-melancholic depression are possibly different depressive subtypes which do not have the same causes regarding diet and proinflammation. This report was the first to examine these sub-types separately.

The research was conducted as part of the Finnish Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Program and was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Mr. Jussi Seppälä, MD, Chief of the Department of Psychiatry of the Hospital District of Southern Savo, explained:

“The findings have practical implications in the care of patients with depressive symptoms. For example, it may be wise to avoid medication causing weight gain among patients with non-melancholic depression, whereas melancholic depressive symptoms may call for a closer look at the quality of the patient’s diet.”

Typical depressive symptoms are associated with melancholic depression, such as a depressed mood, while non-melancholic depression occurs with other types of symptoms, including anxiety, feelings of worry, and low self-esteem.

The results from the study showed:

  • The subjects with the highest folate intake had a 50% lower risk for melancholic depressive symptoms, compared to those with the lowest intake.
  • The people who had the highest vitamin B12 levels had a 3 times lower risk for melancholic depressive symptoms than those with the lowest levels.

The researchers did not find a comparable association with non-melancholic depressive symptoms.

The report also found that patients with non-melancholic depressive symptoms have a two times higher risk for the metabolic syndrome than those with non-melancholic depressive symptoms or those with no depressive symptoms.

Written by Sarah Glynn