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Low Levels of Folate Linked to Depression, Osteoporosis

In addition to the well-known benefits of boosting heart health and helping to lower the risk of certain birth defects, scientists are just now discovering other key functions of that fabulous B vitamin known as folate or folic acid.

A recent study from Tufts University linked depression with low levels of folic acid. Researchers analyzed folate levels in nearly 3,000 study subjects, and found deficiencies in a large proportion of those recovering from depression. Though it’s unclear whether low folate causes – or is caused by – the blues, the B vitamin was found to play an important role in regulating neurochemical reactions which affect your mood.

Could B vitamins – including folic acid – strengthen bones as well? When we think of bone health, we usually think of calcium, and maybe vitamins D and K. But a new study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that folic acid may prevent bone fractures by lowering levels of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine have been known to damage arteries, and thus raise the risk of coronary heart disease. But the new research links increased homocysteine levels to a greater incidence of hip fractures resulting from osteoporosis.

So bone up by increasing your consumption of folate-rich foods, such as legumes like lentils and chickpeas, plus leafy greens like spinach, and other veggies and fruit such as avocado, asparagus and artichokes. And watch both excessive alcohol and coffee consumption – the former may prevent your body from absorbing needed folate while the latter may actually increase levels of the harmful homocysteine.

Published June 7, 2004

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