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Deplin: A 'medical food' that treats depression

Depressed Man

 (iStock)

Deplin, a derivative of folate (vitamin B9), is proving to be a powerful weapon in the treatment of depression.

Folate fuels the synthesis of key brain chemical messengers, like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.  Shortages of these chemicals are implicated in major depression and other psychiatric disorders.  That’s why folate deficiency is linked with depression – and why folate supplements help many depressed people.  

The trouble is that many individuals can’t properly convert folate to the form called L-methylfolate, which is able to pass through the “blood-brain barrier” and enter the central nervous system.  For millions of people, ingesting plain folate won’t do any good, because it can't get through to the brain.

Classified as a “medical food” rather than a drug, Deplin is essentially folate that has already been converted to L-methylfolate, so it can automatically be used to create serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.  

Recent data show that combining Deplin with a serotonin reuptake inhibitor – like Zoloft or Prozac or Paxil – more than doubles the response rate to the antidepressant.  What’s more, the combination of Deplin and the antidepressant yields 84 percent greater improvement in symptoms compared with the antidepressant alone.

More encouragingly, Deplin was also found to cause no more side effects than placebo.

Given these impressive data, I would recommend that anyone starting a serotonin reuptake inhibitor to treat depression ask his or her psychiatrist to consider also starting Deplin.  If the antidepressant is not working or is not meeting expectations, adding Deplin should be at the top of a clinician’s list.

There is also a blood test available to determine if a person is, indeed, one of the millions who lack the enzyme function to properly metabolize plain folate to its neurologically active form.  Having that blood test done probably makes sense for most people—certainly for those who have battled periods of despondency and who might be suffering from actual major depression.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at info@keithablow.com.