VITAMIN E AND DEPRESSION

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People with major clinical depression appear to have lower levels of alpha-tocopherol — a form of vitamin E — circulating in their bloodstreams, report researchers. They plan to investigate further whether vitamin E supplements can help relieve depression's symptoms.

Levels of vitamin E had been previously reported to be lower in patients suffering major depression, but it was not known whether it was due to inadequate dietary intake or a result of the depression itself.

An Australian team from the University of Wollongong measured plasma alpha-tocopherol levels in 49 adults with major depression and looked at patients' usual dietary intake of vitamin E by investigating diet history in a subset of the group. This was designed to check whether these subjects had a lower dietary intake of the vitamin man healthy people — or had their vitamin E levels reduced by the depression.

Diet analysis indicated that 89 percent of subjects met or exceeded the recommended intake for vitamin E. Therefore, dietary intake is likely not responsible for the low alpha-tocopherol levels, wrote the researchers in the February 2005 edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Yet they found that the subjects had significantly lower levels of the vitamin than has previously been reported. It appears that the lower vitamin E in blood may be a marker of increased physiological stress — possibly increased oxidative stress — during depression. Previous studies have shown that antioxidant vitamins may protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals and other reactive oxygen species produced during basic cellular metabolism.

The team warned that it might be too early to recommend vitamin E supplements as a therapy for depression. However, the same group will shortly release results from further research looking at the effect of a nutritional supplement in adults with major depression.

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