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Folate Counters Depression Tied to High Homocysteine

January 2004

In a study of nearly 6,000 adults in Norway, researchers found that participants with the highest homocysteine levels were nearly twice as likely to be depressed as those with the lowest homocysteine levels.*

The researchers also found that people with a certain gene that alters folate metabolism and leads to a relative folate deficiency are much more likely to suffer depression. Folate, a B vitamin, helps to break down homocysteine in the body.

In their article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the researchers noted, “clinical studies have shown an inverse relationship between folate status and depression” and previous research has shown “enhanced antidepressant response with folic acid supplementation.”

“Folate is a vitamin involved in a number of metabolic processes in the body,” lead study author Ingvar Bjelland, MD, told Life Extension. “Lack of folate or disturbed folate metabolism is involved in serious fetal malformations, disturbances in the formation of red blood cells, development of cancer and cardiovascular illness, and dementia and peripheral nerve damage. Folate and its metabolism also are most probably involved in depression.”

—Marc Ellman, MD

* Bjelland I, Tell GS, Vollset SE, Refsum H, Ueland PM. Folate, vitamin B12, homocysteine, and the MTHFR 677C->T polymorphism in anxiety and depression: the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003 Jun;60(6):618-26.

DHA Inhibits Melanoma Cell Growth in Lab Test

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, stopped the growth of some melanoma cell lines in a laboratory test, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Research.*

Melanoma is a potentially deadly skin cancer. Scientists predict that one in 75 Americans born today will develop malignant melanoma during their lifetimes. If discovered early, melanoma can be cured; however, if melanoma is allowed to spread deeper into tissue and metastasize, the five-year survival rate is only about 10%.

Previous research has shown that omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids act as stimulators and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids act as inhibitors of development and progression of many human cancers, including melanoma.

To investigate the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on melanoma growth, scientists at the Institute for Cancer Prevention and New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY, exposed 12 different, rapidly growing human metastatic mela-noma cell cultures in the laboratory to DHA. Cell growth in more than half of the melanoma cell lines was inhibited with increasing concentrations of DHA.

Lead researcher Dr. Anthony Albino told Life Extension that a good omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio seems to be important in preventing many diseases, including a range of cancers. “Clearly, the single most important risk factor for melanoma and other forms of skin cancers is excessive sun exposure, but the fact that diet may impact both the etiology and progression of a number of cancers seems fairly correct,” said Dr. Albino.

—Marc Ellman, MD

* Albino AP, Juan G, Traganos F, et al. Cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of melanoma cells by docosahexaenoic acid: association with decreased pRb phosphorylation. Cancer Res. 2000 Aug 1; 60(15):4139-45.

Antioxidants Offset Alcohol’s Brain Cell Damage

Antioxidants appear to counteract brain cell damage caused by alcohol in rats, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at Cornell Univer-sity’s Weill Medical College in New York found that rats fed a liquid diet containing moderate amounts of ethanol for six weeks had a 66.3% decrease in the number of new neurons and a 227-279% increase in cell death in the dentate gyrus as compared to rats fed an alcohol-free diet. The dentate gyrus is part of the brain’s hippocampus, an integral part of our memory systems.

“While neurons continue to develop, alcohol causes the new cells to die off before they mature,” lead researcher Dr. Daniel Herrera explained to Life Extension. “This damage, we proposed, may be caused by oxidative stress.”

This hypothesis appears to be accurate, as the antioxidant ebselen appeared to counteract the effects of alcohol in the rats’ brains. “Rats that were co-administered ethanol and ebselen had neither a reduction in new cells nor increased cell death,” said Herrera. The researchers believe that antioxidants may help reduce the cognitive deficits seen in alcoholics, as well as in other neurodegenerative diseases.

“[Ebselen] or similar compounds could be used in the treatment of cognitive impairment seen in alcoholic patients and possibly in other disorders where adult neurogenesis may be affected,” stated the researchers.

—Marc Ellman, MD

* Herrera DG, Yague AG, Johnsen-Soriano S, et al. Selective impairment of hip- pocampal neurogenesis by chronic alco- holism: protective effects of an antioxi- dant. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jun 24;100(13):7919-24. Epub 2003 Jun 05.